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Well, it’s time for our annual Rangers-Capitals playoff matchup. Since these teams met just twelve months ago, the scouting report I wrote on Holtby last season is still pretty applicable. He’s had an extra half a season to acclimate to full time starter duties in the NHL, so there has been some evolution in his game. I decided to change up the format for the guys I scouted last season; I’m going to consolidate four categories into two. Being combined are general style and strengths, along with weaknesses and how the Rangers should approach the matchup. Let’s get to it…
Holtby’s style hasn’t changed much, if at all, since last season’s scouting report. He is still an extremely poised, athletic tender with solid instincts and vision. He has near elite levels of lateral movement and recovery, with an absolutely lethal glove hand. He has rounded his game out a little through this lockout-shortened season, specifically with blocking and rebound control.
In the playoffs last season, he was all hands and legs. Generally, when a goalie’s saves are concentrated to their gloves and pads, they are losing peripheral inches on their positioning, requiring more acrobatic save techniques. This year, Holtby has improved his over-movement to the point where he is catching pucks in the mid-section more frequently. This is a product of allowing the puck to travel and “hit you”, as opposed to affirmatively attacking the puck with various parts of your equipment. Read more »
Well, that was awesome, huh? The Rangers are going to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1997 with a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Conference Semi-Finals. Brad Richards and Henrik Lundqvist were the story in this one, as well as tremendous team defense from the Blueshirts. Let’s break down the goals…
- Michael Del Zotto started this play by getting the puck deep. Carl Hagelin used his speed on the forecheck to gain possession and began to move the puck around the net. The forecheck caught 4 Capitals in the slot or below, which opened up the top of the offensive zone.
- Hagelin slipped a pass to a trailing Richards, which caught Niklas Backstrom too low in coverage, and Richie blasted a slapshot under Braden Holtby’s left arm. It was just the quick strike the Rangers needed. First goal, got the crowd into it, just 1:32 in.
- The Rangers’ second goal originated in their own zone. Michael Del Zotto made a great hit on Alex Ovechkin, causing a turnover at the Ranger blue line. Carl Hagelin quickly picked the puck up and led Marian Gaborik.
- Gabby turned on the jets realizing the Caps were in the midst of a change and carried the puck into the Caps’ zone. The defenders converged on Gabby’s shot from the high slot, blocking the wrister. Unfortunately for them, they lost track of the puck in the slot and lined up a perfect screen for Michael Del Zotto. DZ grabbed the puck in the slot and fired a nice little snap shot to the low stick side of Holtby. Read more »
As luck would have it, the Rangers drew the Caps in the second round and they were the only team in the Eastern Conference that didn’t get a goalie scouting report prior to the start of the second season. Luckier still, at the time I was previewing the potential goaltending matchups the Rangers might run into, Braden Holtby was the third option in goal for the Caps, and not even on most fans’ radar. All that changed with a rock solid performance in knocking off the defending champion Boston Bruins, and now Holtby is very much on the radar. Same structure as always applies, general style, strengths, weaknesses and how the Rangers should approach the matchup. Let’s get to it…
This is probably the subject of a whole different post, but modern goaltending, despite a few stylistic outliers can now be classified into two camps. There are very few NHL tenders who aren’t gifted athletes at this point, one camp using that athleticism to maximize the results of an efficient style in the net, the others allow their athleticism to override their technical soundness. For example, goalies like Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price are all tremendously athletic goaltenders, but they use that athletic ability inside a disciplined system which helps keep them from over-moving and other traps of the overzealous keeper. Guys like Antti Neimi, Sergei Bobrovsky and Jonas Gustavsson fall into the other camp. They are incredible athletes, but that tends to get in the way of them stopping the puck. Until they learn that sliding in a butterfly covers more surface area than a split save, they will continue to come up short on their potential.
The whole point of that explanation is Braden Holtby. He walks that fine line. While not nearly as disciplined as the elite tenders mentioned above, he displays remarkable control and efficiency in the net for someone with his relative inexperience and youth. You can tell by watching him play that he maintains an energy level that those of us over the age of 25 are quite envious of, but doesn’t allow himself to devolve into the second group of goalies.
This is a really long winded way of saying that Holtby plays a fundamentally sound style, while flashing at times ridiculous athleticism. Read more »
The Rangers dropped a tough one to the Caps tonight by the score of 4-1. The Rangers actually played pretty well, controlling most of the action after a quick Washington start. They just ran into a hot goalie and some bad luck. Washington clinched the 7th seed in the East with the win, meaning the Rangers will take on the Ottawa Senators in the first round. Onto the bullets…
- The Caps struck quick with two goals in the first 2:18 of play. Alex Ovechkin wired a shot through a tough screen right off the draw for a 1-0 lead, and Matthew Perreault deflected a shot from the point past Lundqvist for a 2-0 lead.
- The two goals seemed to wake the Rangers up a little bit. They began to get more aggressive on the forecheck and creating some chances. Braden Holtby had to make several key saves and Ryan Callahan blasted one off the post on a shorthanded chance.
- The Rangers began to take control of the puck possession and were aggressively pressuring Washington in all areas of the ice. Things were starting to tilt towards the Rangers side of the ice.
- Brad Richards then proceeded to take a hooking penalty, which the Rangers successfully killed and generated Callahan’s aforementioned post. Just as the penalty to Richards had expired, Ryan McDonagh chipped the puck directly into the crowd for a delay of game penalty.
- On the ensuing power play, John Carlson ripped a shot from the point, which glanced off Derek Stepan, and past Hank for a 3-0 Washington lead.
- Honestly, aside from something of a rough start defensively, the Rangers actually didn’t play that poorly. They caught some bad breaks on deflections and screens. Read more »