When in the heat of the Stanley Cup Final, it can become difficult to forget all the incredible plays as they come at you at lightning speed. But now that the Final is over — and the Capitals celebrated their championship with a raucous parade in D.C. — we can go back and take a look t some of those dynamite goals and ridiculous saves. Enter Braden Holtby, who was a big reason Washington won the Stanley Cup, and he has a highlight reel’s worth of plays to prove it. Here’s a look at some magnificent saves and blocked shots that came courtesy of the Capitals’ netminder during the Stanley Cup Final.
The ‘Save of the Year’ candidate
The Capitals entered the Stanley Cup Final tagged as underdogs since their opponent, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, had been so dominant throughout the playoffs. So with VGK leading the series 1-0 and Washington holding onto a 3-2 lead in Game 2, it was up to Holtby to tie the series up. Vegas’ forward Alex Tuch charged towards Washington’s net with two minutes left in the game, his shot looking primed to hit the back of the net. Holtby stretched out his stick and narrowly robbed Tuch of the tying goal.
Standing tall in Game 3
Holtby is regularly recognized as a cool, calm, and collective netminder. So perhaps it wasn’t too surprising he didn’t let the hype from his Game 2 save get to his head. The six-foot-two goaltender was a wall against the surging Vegas offense in Game 3, making both routine and trick plays look easy. He was particularly impressed in stopping Vegas’ tough top line of William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, and Jonathan Marchessault.
An even more impressive Game 4
T.J. Oshie’s goal may have set the tone for game Game 4, but it was Holtby that helped keep the opposing Golden Knights from joining the party. He stopped 28 of Vegas’ 30 attempts in Washington’s 6-2 victory, holding onto a shutout until James Neal found the back of the net with 14 minutes left in the game. Through two periods, Vegas had 22 shots on goal and three attempts on the power play, and Holtby didn’t so much as budge.
Calling Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final a nailbiter is definitely an understatement. And tensions were high right from the start of the tilt when Las Vegas went on the power play with under eight minutes to go in the opening frame. While on the man advantage, winger Tomas Nosek ripped the puck across his body from the faceoff circle that could’ve wormed its way into the net. But Holtby batted the shot away quickly with his glove to keep the Knights off the board — for the time being.
The save that won it all
As the clock wound down in the third frame of Game 5, it was up to Holtby yet again to secure the Capitals’ one-goal lead. There was a faceoff near Washington’s net with just a few seconds left in the game, and Vegas was going to use those mere moments to sneak the puck into the cage. But Holtby blocked the puck with his knees just as the final buzzer sounded. No sooner had he made the final save that his teammates were ambushing him to celebrate.
The final line
When all was said and done, Holtby saved his best hockey the end of the playoffs. Through 23 playoff games in 2018 — spanning a staggering 1,386 minutes of ice time — Holtby registered a .922 save percentage with a 2.16 goals-against average and two shutouts., and no doubt played his best through the final five games against Vegas. Not bad for a guy who didn’t even start for the Capitals when post-season play got underway.
— NHL (@NHL) June 1, 2018
Of all the blocks and saves Braden Holtby made the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, his save on Alex Tuch in Game 2 remains his most epic. The save was recreated with t-shirts, and of course memes and GIFs to get all hockey fans through the off-season. But the most interesting tribute to the save no doubt came from an artist known as The Flippist, who commemorated the save with a colorful and incredibly accurate flip book.