When Barry Trotz took over as Washington's coach at the start of the 2014-15 season, Caps goalie Braden Holtby owned a 60-31-8 career record, a .919 save pct. and a 2.60 GAA. He had appeared in 105 games, and he had 11 shutouts.
Washington used four different goalies the season before Trotz's arrival, and while Holtby played more games than the other three, he was far from ensconced as the Caps' undisputed No. 1 netminder. There were some discussions internally in that summer of 2014 as to whether the Caps should cast their lot with Holtby, or if they should look outside the organization for an established veteran goalie.
They obviously went with Holtby, and the results have been stellar.
Video: Holtby records 200th win as Caps top Pens, 4-1
On Friday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Holtby backstopped the Caps to a 4-1 win with a 27-save performance. The win was his fifth in succession, but more notably, it was the 200th triumph of his NHL career. Holtby just turned 28 in September; he hardly seems old enough to have 200 wins. And as it turns out, he's the second fastest in league history to reach that milestone, in terms of games played.
Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden earned his 200th win with the Montreal Canadiens in his 311th game in the league in November of 1977; he was 30 at the time, but he also sat out the entire 1973-74 season. Holtby earned his 200th win in his 319th game in the league. The legendary Jacques Plante is third on that list, having earned his 200th career victory at the age of 30 in November of 1959. Plante needed 340 games with which to achieve 200 wins.
That places Holtby is in some extremely lofty company.
Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Holtby owns a 140-45-23 record. He has 21 shutouts, a 2.18 GAA and a .923 save pct. over that span.
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | November 10
Early in the 2017-18 season, Holtby is playing as well as ever. He has had 10 "quality starts" and just one "really bad start." (Stats courtesy of hockeyreference.com and QS and RBS stats created by Rob Vollman of Hockey Prospectus.)
"I think we just take it for granted sometimes and just say, 'Oh yeah, Holtz played great again tonight,' and move on," says Caps defenseman John Carlson. "But I think he deserves a little more time to be talked about when he does stuff like that.
"It's well deserved, and it's no surprise on our end. We see him every day and his approach and his work ethic. It's awesome for him."
Holtby entered 2017-18 with three straight seasons of 40 or more wins, joining Martin Brodeur and Evgeni Nabokov as just the third goaltender in NHL history to achieve that feat. With nine wins in Washington's first 17 contests of the campaign, he is almost a quarter of the way to a fourth straight 40-win season, which would be an unprecedented achievement in the league.
"I honestly think that every year you watch him, he gets better and better," says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom. "It's just impressive to watch him on a daily basis. He is obviously awesome during the games, but he works so hard in practice, too. He wants to be the best goalie out there. It was good to see him get his 200th win because he deserves it."
Video: Barry Trotz Postgame | November 10
Special Delivery - Pittsburgh handed the Caps their first regulation loss of the season back on Oct. 11 at Capital One Arena. The Pens took a 3-2 decision that night, going 3-for-6 on the power play to overpower the Caps.
Washington returned the favor on Friday night. The Caps were 2-for-6 on the power play, and they were a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. T.J. Oshie's power-play goal with less than two minutes left in the third looms large; it broke a 1-1 tie and came with just one second remaining on a penalty to Pens defenseman Kris Letang.
Letang had been in the box for nearly four minutes, had the Pens completed that kill, they may have seized momentum in a 1-1 game late in the second. Instead, the Caps netted what would prove to be the game-winning goal, a tally that enabled them to carry a slim lead into the third period against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs.
Friday's game marked the fourth time this season that the Caps have had multiple power-play goals in the same game, and the first time they've done so since Oct. 20 at Detroit. Washington is 5-0-1 this season in games in which it scores on the power play.
The Caps' penalty killing outfit has had its ups and downs this season, but it has turned in some clutch performances of late as well. In several of Washington's recent victories, the Caps' penalty killers have had to execute key third-period kills in order to seal those wins. That was the case on Friday night against the Pens' potent power play, too, as Washington killed off a pair of minors in the first half of the third period while protecting a one-goal lead.
The 300 Club - Caps defenseman Dmitry Orlov skated in the 300th game of his NHL career on Friday against the Pens. Orlov made his NHL debut with the Caps in Washington on Nov. 21, 2011 in a game against the Arizona Coyotes.
Down On The Farm - The ECHL South Carolina Stingrays fell to 7-1-1 on the season when they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Atlanta Gladiators at North Charleston Coliseum on Friday night.
Nick Johnson and Joe Devin supplied the offense for the Stingrays, and Jeff Jakaitis stopped 29 of 32 shots he faced in the South Carolina nets.
The Stingrays host the Gladiators again on Saturday night in the same barn.
By The Numbers - Carlson led the Caps with 28:43 in ice time and seven shot attempts … Jakub Vrana, Lars Eller, Devante Smith-Pelly and T.J. Oshie had three shots on net each to lead the Capitals … Tom Wilson had six hits to pace the Caps … Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Orpik each had three blocked shots to lead the Caps … Jay Beagle won 13 of 17 face-offs (76 percent) … Backstrom won seven of 11 drops (64 percent).