Top goalies vs. dangerous shots

Should everyone be lauding Braden Holtby's performance?

Updated: May 7, 2012, 1:02 PM ET
By Neil Greenberg | ESPN Insider
Braden HoltbyMitchell Layton/NHLI/Getty ImagesBraden Holtby has been great in these playoffs. But how much credit does he really deserve?

It would have been highly unlikely to imagine that Braden Holtby would rank among the leading goalies through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That's because the Washington Capitals' 22-year-old netminder didn't start a game this season until Feb. 13.

"Down the stretch we were out of playoffs at the time; we got beat in Chicago and Neuvy [Michal Neuvirth] got hurt and [Tomas] Vokoun was already hurt," Washington Capitals head coach Dale Hunter explained. "[Holtby] had to play in Detroit and in Philadelphia and took three out of the four points. [It] was huge for us to even be making the playoffs."

Holtby continues to be huge in the playoffs, stopping 18 of the 20 shots he faced in the Capitals' 3-2, Game 4 win on Saturday afternoon, tying the series at two games apiece. He has now gone 27 straight starts in the NHL -- including 11 in the playoffs -- without suffering back-to-back setbacks.

"Everyone is lauding Holtby," former Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau wrote in the L.A. Times, "but frankly the Rangers aren't getting a lot of chances." Is that just sour grapes, or is the former coach on target when he says Holtby is more sizzle than steak?


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Neil Greenberg is ESPN Insider's NHL analytics expert. His columns have appeared on the Washington Post website, and he is a regular guest on Sirius XM NHL Radio.