The Boston Bruins took the first step in their attempt to defend their Stanley Cup Championship title on Thursday night for the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. The Bruins and Capitals certainly didn’t disappoint as the Bruins claimed victory in an exciting over-time victory.
Chris Kelly ended up getting the game winning goal for the Bruins after he took a shot from the point that found its way to the back of the net. The puck flew past an other wise perfect Braden Holtby to put the B’s at a 1-0 series lead over the Capitals.
As a result of his game-winning goal, Kelly earned the Bruins’ chain. Thought of by Andrew Ference, the chain is much like the old-time Bruins hockey jacket given to the MVP of the game for the Bruins last season.
“It’s something, kind of like last year with the jacket, Andrew [Ference] made,” said Kelly. “Something that symbolizes a team, a chain. Try not to be that weak link, and it’s one of those things that you pass out after a game. It’s one of those things that’s all in good fun.”
His teammates were in obvious agreement that he was a key link for the game. Teammate Tim Thomas added with a laugh after Kelly explained the significance of the chain, “He wasn’t the weak link tonight.”
It was only fitting that Kelly got the goal, as he had the closest chance in the second period. Kelly had a clear shot right in front of the net while Holtby was off near the post, Kelly was unable to control the puck. But, the Bruins forward certainly redeemed himself with the game-winner. The goal was especially sweet considering that Holtby seemed unstoppable through much of the game.
“Well obviously he’s a very capable goalie,” said Kelly. “He played a good game tonight, and I think that it’s one of those things that, it’s hockey. He’s out there doing his job, just like everyone else, and you’ve got to stay focused, and work through those things.”
At just 22 years old Holtby certainly is making a name for himself in the NHL. It is early on in the series, but it looks as though the Caps’ goalie will be a solid fit in the net.
Holtby has only played in 7 games for Washington, logging in just 361 minutes of play in the regular season, compared to his injured counterparts Tomas Vokoun who had 2,583 minutes of play in 48 games and Michal Neuvirth’s 2020 minutes in 38 games this season.
The young net-minder had a .922 save % and a 2.50 GAA in his seven games with the Capitals. During those games he had 4 losses and two wins coming into the playoffs.
However, regular season numbers don’t necessarily carry over during the playoffs. The ‘second season’ of the NHL brings the best out of these athletes that are put on the greatest hockey stage in the world. By the looks of it, Braden Holtby certainly is not an exception to that trend, seeing as he has picked up his game just in time to face the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Holtby faced 31 shots in the game, and allowed just one goal in overtime; an impressive start to what is sure to be a long series between the defending Stanley Cup Champions and the Washington Capitals. Despite the 31 shots the bruins had it wasn’t until the very end when they were finally able to beat the Caps’ net-minder. If he keeps up this brick-wall style goaltending and level-headed attitude he gives the Capitals a very good chance of winning the series.
Holtby also caught the eye of two-time Vezina winner and Stanley Cup MVP Thomas.
“I thought he played very well,” said Thomas, “ I didn’t see a lot of holes tonight. He worked very hard. I’m hoping he expended a lot of energy and wore himself out a little bit, because I hope he doesn’t play that good every game. I thought he did a very good job.”