In Game 7 against Boston, netminder Braden Holtby found himself staring down an opponent. The netminder had crosschecked Bruins forward Rich Peverley, who got up with what appeared to be the intent of two-handed slashing the rookie netminder.
As he’s done throughout his rise to prominence in these playoffs, Holtby didn’t flinch. Holtby crossed his arms in front of his body and stood motionless as Peverley skated toward him and stopped just short of hitting the goaltender with his stick.
“I’ve taken my fair number of retaliatory penalties this year, so I think more in my mind was not to do anything to put the team down,” Holtby said Friday. “I wasn’t expecting that. I’m glad he didn’t hit me.”
In addition to his solid play in the first round, Holtby’s composure under pressure was a steadying point for Washington. The team will need him to maintain that poise against the Rangers and likely at least match Vezina and Hart finalist Henrik Lundqvist in the second round.
But don’t expect Holtby, who stopped 233 of 248 shots he faced in the first round, to treat this series or opponent any differently than any other he’s ever faced.
“It’s still a hockey game. It doesn’t change much,” Holtby said. “Once you start putting more pressure on yourself for being in the playoffs, that’s when things go wrong. Just go with the flow right now. It’s just another hockey game. Go on to play the game we’ve played forever and do whatever we can to win.”
Holtby’s faced the Rangers twice in his young career, once at Verizon Center and once at Madison Square Garden. The latter came in the 2011-12 regular season finale on April 7, when he made 35 saves in a 4-1 Capitals win.
That contest helped Holtby familiarize himself with the details of Madison Square Garden, which is dimly lit compared to most NHL arenas and simply feels different with the way the stands pop up around the rink.
“Especially getting used to the lighting and whatnot, and the different confines. It’s not exactly your typical building,” Holtby said. “It’s just a different color in there. It’s almost a yellow. That’s the main thing. It’s still a sheet of ice the same size as everything else.”
More on the Capitals:
— Analysis: How the Caps and Rangers match up
— History says it could boom or bust for Caps
— For Caps, second round could be boom or bust
— Ward arrives a hero at Friday’s practice
— Caps to face Rangers in conference semifinals
— Caps are committed to Hunter’s system