By MIKE ASHMORE
Three goalies, two nets.
Hershey Bears goaltender Braden Holtby knew the situation coming into the season. Despite having little left to prove playing in the AHL and despite an incredible run in the NHL this year in which he posted a 9-2-2 record in 13 games with a 1.95 GAA and .930 save percentage, the talented 21 year old netminder is stuck on the Washington Capitals depth chart behind two other young goalies, Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov.
Instead of going after the Stanley Cup, it appears Holtby will be going after his second consecutive Calder Cup. But with time on his side, that’s OK with the Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native for the time being.
"I’ve just been trying to enjoy it," Holtby said.
"I knew coming in that I’d be the third guy, and I’ve gotten more opportunities this year than I ever expected coming into the year. I’m just trying to take it all in stride and hopefully get a few more starts (in Washington), who knows. I just want to keep trying to improve."
After four seasons in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades, Holtby made the jump to pro hockey in time for the 2009-10 season. He split the year between the Bears and South Carolina Stingrays, making 12 appearances for the latter and being named to the ECHL All-Star Game.
ECHL.com recently caught with Holtby to ask him about his brief stay with the Stingrays.
"It was short, short and sweet," Holtby said. "Charleston’s obviously a really nice city, and I made a lot of friends there. There were a lot of great guys to play with. Cail (MacLean) was great, and the trainers were awesome. That made it a lot easier to go down there."
For Holtby, the personable young goalie has yet to spend a full season with one team, as he’s been up and down a few times this season with Hershey and Washington. Making the transition from the ECHL to the AHL, and then AHL to the NHL and then vice versa takes a little bit of getting used to, he says.
"It’s a little bit different for a goalie, because in a way, it’s almost harder to go down a league," Holtby said.
"There’s more mistakes made, there’s more Grade A scoring chances. It’s a different challenge at every level, really. Obviously, in the NHL, the guys are so much more talented. Their shots are a lot different. But at the same time, your defensemen play everything almost perfect. That makes you have to make the saves that you’re supposed to. But it’s different having to adapt to the different lifestyle, obviously it’s a big difference between every league."
According to Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin, Holtby’s been adjusting just fine when he gets his chances in the nation’s capital.
"Everybody knows we have three good, young goalies," Ovechkin said. "Holtsie’s played unbelievable for us, he keeps us in the game all the time."