One on One with Braden Holtby
"Last year you were in South Carolina and now you're in the NHL, can you believe it?
"It's hard to believe that I've made a jump like that in less than a year, but I've always felt like I could play at the highest level. My goal from the beginning was to play in the NHL and playing in South Carolina for the Stingrays in the ECHL was a part of that process. I had a great time when I was down in South Carolina and learned a lot about the professional game and myself. The city and fans were fantastic. Honestly, I wouldn't change anything that happened to me in the last year."
You started last season in Hershey and then were sent down to the Stingrays. Did that take a toll on you mentally?
"At first I was disappointed because I felt like I had proven that I could play in the American League, but it's part of being a professional. You have to pay your dues. Washington told me before the season that I'd probably be in South Carolina for most of the season, so it wasn't like I didn't expect it."
The stigma of playing in the ECHL seems to be gone now. Do you think that's true?
"There are so many goalies in the NHL that have played in the ECHL, so it's not like when you go down there and your career is over. It's a good league. A lot better than people might think. You see a lot of different situations and you see a lot of shots. That's a good thing for a young goalie."
Is playing in the ECHL harder than playing in the AHL or NHL?
"In some ways, yes. It's a tough league to play in for goalies because there are so many scoring opportunities. There are a lot of skilled players that have that one thing, whether it's speed or size or whatever, that's keeping them out of the American League or the National League. But they do have that one thing that they're very good at. It makes that league really good."
What was it like to win the Calder Cup in your rookie season?
"It was a great experience. I was fortunate enough to win it the year before, as well, after my junior season was over. I was more a part of the team last year than I was during that first season, so it meant more to me to be a part of that championship run last year."
What were your expectations going into this year?
"I knew that Dany Sabourin was coming to Hershey and he's a proven goalie at this level. I knew it wasn't going to be easy to gain the No. 1 spot, but my goal was to play as well as I could and hopefully work my way into the being the No. 1 starter. From there hopefully I would earn a call up to Washington."
You were not expected to stay up in Washington for very long?
"I really didn't think it would be for more than a week. I ended up being up there for about a month. To be honest, I didn't think I played all that well."
You got your first NHL start against Philadelphia and you ended up winning the game 3-2 in overtime. What was that day like before the game?
"It was stressful to stay focused. I was lucky to have my dad there. He came down for the day. It was tough not to think about all the other stuff that was going on and just focus on the game. It took me a while to get into the game. The first half of the game I was still a little star struck. I got a little more action near the end of the game. It was a tough game to play in. It wasn't like I had a whole bunch of action early to get my mind off of things. I had a lot of time to think in the first two periods. I had a couple of flurries there in the third period and luckily I came away with the win."
What was it like to get your first win in your first NHL start?
"Unbelievable. I actually had my first win the day before against Boston when I came in during the third period. I came in late. I didn't feel like I'd actually played in the NHL until I got my first start. But no doubt it was a great feeling to get that first win in the NHL."
You hit a little rough patch in the next couple of appearances. What happened there?
"I think I let my mind get the best of me. I was thinking too much out there and I learned that can be a distraction. You've got to let the game and the plays come to you."
What's it like to face an Alexander Ovechkin slap shot?
"It's different (laughing). You know when he's shooting the puck. It's coming pretty hard and usually high, so you have to be ready. It's not a lot of fun. It definitely makes you improve your game. He's got one of the best shots in the world, so you know you're facing the best."
Is there one save that stands out the most?
"I made one against Philadelphia on a rebound off a Mike Richards shot. That jumps out at me. I had a two-on-one in Buffalo when the game was tied at 2-2. We went on to win the game, so that was a memorable save."
What do you have to do to earn a permanent spot up in the NHL?
"Continue to work hard. I think that's the key at any level. I got a lot of constructive criticism when I went up. I need to be more consistent. I think I was a little overly aggressive in my first couple of games. I don't know if that was because of nerves or I was adjusting to the speed of the game. The one thing I really want to do is be more efficient with my movement. I think that's something I need to fine tune."