WASHINGTON, DCThe Bruins thought they might have found something with Braden Holtby in Game 3.
They were getting traffic to the front of the net, and cashing in on rebounds that have seemingly been there since the very beginning of the series.
The Caps lost the blocked shot battle for the first time in the series, and it seemed the tide was turning.
But it turned out to be more of the same in Game 4 as Holtby and the Capitals defense was once again on display in a Game 4 win thats evened the series at 2-2.
David Krejci felt like the Bruins could have scored five or six goals against the Washington defense given their chances, but you wouldnt have known it by the centers zero shots on net. He was going to the danger areas at points, but Krejci didnt look poised to score at any point during the game.
In fact he hasnt looked that way in four games now with no points, no goals and a minus-1 after leading the Bruins with 12 goals during last years playoffs. Holtby has been a giant factor in all of that despite the Bs perceived scoring chances.
We had so many chances that my line could have scored five goals easily, said Krejci, a refrain that many utter in the playoffs when a goaltender has taken it away from them. But we didnt so its frustrating. I had a couple of great ones. Its frustrating when you get some chances and you want to score so badly. Maybe we need to relax and take a couple of deep breaths.
Give Holtby credit because hes a good goalie, but 45 shots on net you need more than one goal. We had six guys who scored 20 plus goals in the season and we have one goal on 45 shots? Its frustrating, but I still believe its coming.
The Caps goaltender once again stood on his head with 44 saves in Washingtons 2-1 victory over the Bruins, and gave the nip-and-tuck series a fourth one-goal game in four tries thus far.
Its pretty clear the Capitals mean business when Alex Ovechkin plays less than three minutes in the final period with Washington singularly focused on goal protection at all costs. But for Holtby hes in the middle of everything he always dreamed about while on his way to the NHL as a 22-year-old.
Every time I've watched the playoffs, there's kind of a burning in me, I think with every player, that they want to be there, said Holtby, who has joined Semyon Varlamov and Michael Neuvirth in the playoff tradition of rookie Caps goaltenders. That they think they can get to that level. It's just the start of the playoffs right now. I'm just trying to learn, try to improve and see how long we can go.
The Bruins were focused on getting traffic in front of the net and generating better offensive chances for their top-end forwards, but they couldnt consistently do that in Game 4. Some of that was Bostons inability to bully their way to the front of the net, but there was another factor thats beginning to loom large.
Holtby is starting to take on the face of a rookie goaltender poised to upset a heavy favorite in a playoff seriessomething Ken Dryden did to the Bruins many years ago, but something Cam Ward did in recent years with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The bottom line is that the 22-year-old rookie goaltender standing on his head, and a Washington defense that blocked 12 shots in the third period, deserved a hard-nosed playoff win.
The story of the Capitals if they can advance beyond the first round will be the play of their rookie netminder, who made textbook saves of all manners against Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand throughout the game. Its pretty clear hes starting to get into the Bs heads as theyre rushing almost every good scoring chance they get around the net.
Holtbys .953 save percentage is second behind only Cory Schneider among the playoff goaltenders, and his GAA of 1.60 has equaled Tim Thomas in a playoff series featuring sparkling puck-stopping. The difference is that Holtbys save percentage is nearly 20 points higher than Thomas, and hes outplayed his decorated counterpart at times.
Holtby was chastising himself a bit for allowing a goal to Rich Peverley that tied the game in the first period on a shot he felt like he should have stopped. But from that point on he was a brick wall stopping 31 shots in the final two periods, and stoning Patrice Bergeron during a last second flurry with the goaltender pulled.
The Washington goalie made one unorthodox stop on Lucic during a rush to the front of the net in the second period, and that was the save of the game in Holtbys mind.
I guess I was in a zone to a certain extent in the second period I felt pretty good. I don't know. There's still improvement. There are still times Milan Lucic when he cut across the middle in the second period; that could've easily been a goal, said Holtby. There's still some improvement. I felt good, but far from perfect.
Holtby is far from perfect, but dominating the Bruins. That is not something a struggling group of Bs forwards wanted to hear.