In February 2013, as the Capitals were closing out their season against the Flyers, the team’s head coach was sitting on the bench, his head in his hands.
“We’re doing our usual thing, getting a guy ready to go,” he said.
“We have one guy who’s going to go out and make the save and that’s Braden Holtby.
We’re doing what we’ve always done.””
What if he goes out and makes the save?” the goalie said.
Holtby’s face lit up.
“What if?” he said, and his eyes widened.
The answer: A whole bunch of them.
“I remember thinking: What if he makes the goalie stop?”
And then, he had a change of heart.
Hearing a goalie make the goalie stops on goal was a pretty big deal back then, and it still is today.
“If he makes a save on net, it was the biggest moment of my career,” Holtby says.
“That moment when he made the save on goal, it changed my life.”
Holta was only 23 at the time.
But by the time he was traded to the Flyers for the 2014-15 season, his career had taken off.
And it wouldn’t be long before Holtby was a fan favorite on the ice.
He was named the NHL’s Most Valuable Player that season, the second time in his career he was named to the All-Star Game, and he led the Capitals to the Eastern Conference finals that season.
He was named MVP in both 2015 and 2016.
In his last season with the Capitals, Holtby made more saves than anyone else in the league.
In fact, he made more than any other goalie in the NHL.
“He’s the reason why I’ve always been in the National Hockey League,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz says.
“The reason why there’s a lot of people in this league, and I love playing with him.
I love having a guy like that, a guy who makes saves.
I just love seeing his vision, his determination, his passion, his love of the game.”
After the Capitals beat the Rangers in Game 7 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals, Holt-Bennett was named a finalist for the Bob McKenzie Award, given annually to the NHL Player of the Year.
“When I think about him being a National Hockey Player of a great organization, and being a fan-favorite, and a guy that has a great job with this team, it’s really hard to think of a better guy to be a member of our team,” Trotz said.
“What I would do, and what I would say to everybody out there in this room right now, is to have a good time watching him.
Have fun watching him play.
Have some fun with him.”
The two became fast friends, and soon the two were living the hockey dream.
They even had a dog together.
In August 2018, the Capitals named Holtby their captain.
“It was just a matter of time,” Holt- Bennett said.
But it was no small feat.
Holtby had played with a lot.
He had played in the World Cup of Hockey, the World Junior Championship, and had a Stanley Cup championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014.
The NHL’s reigning rookie of the year was already an All-star, and even though he was still just 25 years old, he was already a legend in the game.
“Braden Holtin was the most important player in the Capitals’ championship,” Capitals President of Hockey Operations George McPhee said.
The next year, Holtin helped the Capitals reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time.
He also became the first goalie to score a goal in each of the Capitals first four playoff series.
And with his new team and new franchise, Holtbennett was one of the first players signed to a contract extension.
The Capitals didn’t just sign Holtby to a long-term deal, they also signed Holtby’s younger brother, Ryan Holtberson, to a five-year deal worth $25 million.
“Everyone around him knew it was time for Braden to go to another level,” Capitals head coach Barry Blashill said.