ARLINGTON, Va. -- Tami Holtby has become the most recognized hockey mom of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Now she's the most recognized hockey grandma.
Not only has Braden Holtby survived the pressure of being a 22-year-old goaltender with limited NHL experience to lead his Washington Capitals to within one victory of the Eastern Conference Finals, he became a father Thursday.
Holtby's fiancée gave birth to Benjamin Hunter Holtby at a local hospital.
"It was a pretty exciting day," Holtby said after practicing Friday with the Capitals. "It was planned so it would be the least amount of a distraction to our team as possible. It was a great day. Mom and baby are doing great. But now I'm focusing on hockey."
Some Capitals fans have known about Holtby's pending fatherhood for weeks through the power of social media. Holtby's fiancée first mentioned the baby on Twitter in November and has essentially been live-tweeting the entire pregnancy.
Goalie - WSH
GAA: 1.95 | SVP: 0.935
While the players have also known about it, Mike Knuble let it slip to a few media members the morning of Game 7 in Boston during the opening round.
"It is a maturity thing. Guys are at a different point in their lives when they're 22," Knuble said that day. "He has a baby on the way, and that says he's already thinking a little bit older and a little more wise than his age shows on paper. I think as a group we've been very proud of the way he's carried himself, about the way he's prepared for games and performed in games. We're very happy to have him on our side."
Holtby declined to comment through a team spokesman at the time, and after a handful of questions Friday asked for the focus of the interview to return to hockey.
"Circumstances are different, but it's still the same game. It's still hockey," Holtby said. "The main thing you learn when you turn professional is to separate personal life from hockey, and that's what we're gonna do here."
Holtby has been a revelation during this postseason. He spent the first part of his professional career behind other, higher draft picks -- Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth -- on Washington's organizational depth chart, but he has patiently waited for his chance.
He excelled at the NHL level when he had a brief chance last season, but returned to the American Hockey League for the majority of this season. For one day, he was the team's No. 2 goaltender after Varlamov was traded, but he was back to being No. 3 when Tomas Vokoun signed the next day.
Injuries to Vokoun and Neuvirth opened up another opportunity for Holtby, and he has made the most of it.
"It is funny -- the guy's got enough pressure on him already that he has something like this to deal with, too," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "He seems to be great. Everything went fine, and we're all so pumped up for him. When we found out it was just non-stop texting for him, I'm sure, and everyone on the team sending him messages. It is an exciting time for him, and we hope to make it exciting for a little while longer."
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The qualities that have made Holtby great this postseason -- focus, resolve, and unflappable confidence in himself -- are exaggerated considering his youth and what has been transpiring in his personal life. He has produced great numbers this postseason (a 1.95 goals-against average and .935 save percentage), and they are even better in games after losses -- Washington has not lost consecutive contests.
His fiancée spent the majority of the pregnancy closer to their home in Western Canada while attending school, but she moved to the area near the beginning of the postseason, and Holtby said that made things easier for him.
If he needed advice on how to juggle everything, he didn't have to look very far -- Capitals forward Keith Aucoin and his wife had a baby in late February. This is also Aucoin's first time as a regular in the NHL playoffs.
"I think the good thing is that they had it planned on [the day] so he knew when it was coming and they planned it on a good day, on a day off, where he could just get away and enjoy it," Aucoin said. "I guess the best part is now he can go on the road and get some rest and not have to worry about waking up in the middle of the night. So it's a great experience and I'm sure he's going to enjoy it."
There have already been many interesting side plots to the story of Braden Holtby. He has a litany of superstitions and mannerisms on the ice before and during games that fans of the Capitals and the Hershey Bears long ago deemed "Holtbyisms."
Like Varlamov before him three years ago, Holtby has become an instant rock star in Washington. T-shirts and hockey sweaters with his No. 70 on the back are multiplying exponentially around Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington and at Verizon Center. There are even T-shirts with his No. 70 and his nickname "Holtbeast" available.
His father, Greg, was a goaltender, and both Greg and Tami have become a fixture during Capitals broadcasts. Tami's animated reactions have populated the Internet, much in the same way the mother of Evgeni Malkin's did in 2009.
"She's pretty excited about the whole thing," Braden said. "She's always been there for hockey games, and I guess always acts like that. It is nothing new from my end. My dad and my sister have said she's been like that for years.
"She's becoming a bit famous herself. I don't know if she's happy about it, but she's just enjoying everything."