Braden Holtby was among the elite NHL goaltenders just a few years ago. However, after winning the Vezina Trophy in 2017 and capturing the Stanley Cup a year later, he seemed to lose his way. Following a very poor season with the Washington Capitals in 2019, he signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Unfortunately for Holtby, the first and only season in Vancouver was the worst of his career. Now, he has a fresh start with a heavy defensive team in the Dallas Stars and is looking to make the most of it. With the help of Stars goalie coach Jeff Reese and the support of veterans Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, Holtby has seemingly refound his game, and possibly his new home.
Holtby’s Numbers Are Dazzling
After earning the start on opening night, Holtby has been arguably the best player for Dallas early in the season. In his three appearances so far, he holds a 1-1-0 record (also played most of the game in New York, leaving in the third period), with a 1.75 goals-against average and .947 save percentage. Those numbers are simply dazzling, sitting him near the top of the league. For the Stars, this comes as no surprise. After signing the 32-year-old to a one-year contract, the coaching staff was confident he would find his game again.
“He’s coming to camp with the right attitude. He’s working very very hard. Reeser (Jeff Reese) is spending a lot of time with him, so I am very confident we can get him back to where he was.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness said during training camp
So far, they have been absolutely right. Not only have his numbers shined, but he has kept the Stars in games while they were being severely outplayed. Holtby held tight as the Rangers tilted the ice in the second period on opening night, made some excellent saves in Boston as Dallas played their worst game of the season, and was a huge part of the shootout win in Pittsburgh on Tuesday with important saves in regulation, overtime, and the shootout.
“I told them (both goaltenders) after the game, you’re keeping us in these games, we’ll get to our game soon. It’s important to have that 1-2 back there. They’re both great guys and they’re competitors and they’re fun to play in front of. It’s nice to have that when you don’t have it in the first period — they keep you in the game, and they let you get to your game. To have those guys bail us out, that’s huge.”– Stars defenseman Ryan Suter
Related: Stars Are Built To Win Now
Holtby’s Calming Presence Huge For Stars
Stars head coach Rick Bowness has stated multiple times how important poise is in a netminder. It was seen last season with Jake Oettinger and is being shown by Holtby early this season. The veteran goaltender allows the Stars to settle into the game and trust that he has their back when things break down. Not only is he making the saves, but his professionalism and calm approach are huge for the team in front of him.
“He’s very calm, he’s been rock solid back there. We feel very confident with him in net. He handles the puck really well, he moves it to the right area, he’s very poised, and that gives you a lot of confidence when you look back and see him.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
Holtby has seemingly claimed the top spot on the goalie depth chart so far this season. While that will likely fluctuate throughout the season, it serves as a massive confidence boost for him and his teammates. If he is able to continue playing at a high level, Dallas will have one of the best goalie duos in the NHL as they did with Bishop and Khudobin a few seasons ago. Bowness will enjoy the freedom of riding the hot goalie, knowing that he has a solid 1A/1B combination in net. Keep in mind, Stars fans, Holtby signed a one-year, $2 million contract this summer. If he continues to be anywhere near as good as he has been so far, that is a massive bargain that could help this team with their salary cap situation moving forward.
Sam Nestler is a Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!