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World Cup

Holtby, Crawford may take on World

Goalies contending for spot to play for Canada

by Katie Brown / Correspondant

Holtby's sweet glove save

WSH@CHI: Holtby uses the glove to snag the puck

2/28/16: Braden Holtby uses his glove to snare a Teuvo Teravainen backhander in front to keep the game tied at 1

  • 00:18 •

ARLINGTON, Va . -- Hockey Canada has won Olympic gold medals with Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Carey Price. But Canada may turn to the next wave of goaltenders for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Price, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals and Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks are in contention to be named to Canada's World Cup roster when it's announced Wednesday.

Holtby is in the midst of a record season, leading the NHL with 39 wins and on pace to break Brodeur's single-season mark of 48. Crawford has won the Stanley Cup twice with the Blackhawks and has a League-leading seven shutouts this season.

"They are what we may refer to as late bloomers," Capitals goaltending coach Mitch Korn said. "I'm a big fan of late bloomers. I find that late bloomers work harder, appreciate it more, take less for granted because they had to slash and fight and battle their way through it. All the guys with the silver spoons were getting all the accolades."

Holtby and Crawford were never silver-spoon goaltenders. Crawford spent five seasons in the American Hockey League before getting a shot in the NHL, and Holtby was a fourth-round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft.

They were invited to Canada's Olympic orientation camp prior to the 2014 Sochi Olympics and were considered long shots. Since then, Crawford won the Cup for the second time and Holtby has become the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy.

"That's a testament to [Holtby] and how far he's come and progressed," Korn said. "You look back and see that Washington made a concerted effort to load the goalie basket. All these goalies that came in, plus a few that they signed that were older to help the young guys, it was a lot of competition for playing here for a long time, and he's the last one standing."

Now in his sixth NHL season, Crawford, 31, has played 320 games and has five seasons with 30 or more wins. He hasn't just ridden the coattails of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to two Cup titles.

"For me, Corey Crawford is one of those guys that's exceeded the expectations that a lot of people had in the early days when he was a pro," Korn said. "He didn't come with the flash and the neon lights over his head and all of that when he turned pro and got into the League."

Video: WSH@CHI: Crawford turns away a quick Ovechkin shot

Crawford's .928 save percentage ranks third in the League and he has pretty much done it all with the Blackhawks; that might be attractive to Hockey Canada's management team of Doug Armstrong, Marc Bergevin, Rob Blake, Ken Holland, Bob Murray and Scott Salmond. 

"He's really comfortable being uncomfortable," Goalie Guild founder Justin Goldman said. "It doesn't matter what type of external pressures he's facing from fans and media and that whole thing. It doesn't matter if he's perceived as a guy who's just a product of his team."

Holtby has worked to improve his mental game and his technical game over the past two seasons. He used to have complicated pregame routines and superstitions, but has streamlined his approach.

Goldman said Holtby has simplified his game, his off-ice training, nutrition and other elements, and became more consistent as a result.

"Now, instead of getting into the crease and tearing it up and leaving a bloody mess behind, he is much more efficient," Goldman said.

Holtby has a 2.23 goals-against average and .923 save percentage, and has developed significantly since the 2014 Olympic camp.

"He's just growing and growing every year," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said of Holtby, 26. "It's scary to think what the ceiling could be for him sometimes, but he's in my opinion the best goalie that this League is seeing right now."

Holtby called that a product of getting older. And though his focus is on the Capitals, his incredible season is getting him noticed even more.

"I just try and be consistent, try and get better," Holtby said. "As far as the Canadian roster goes, that's based on people's opinions. There's a lot of goalies out there that are definitely deserving of being on that.

"My job is with the Capitals [is] to just play as best I can, win games and if that impresses some Canadian scouts, then so be it, but my main goal is just winning games here no matter what."

That's something Crawford and Holtby have in common. They care more about team success than individual accolades, and have the drive to succeed at any cost. Both are performers, no matter the stage.

"At the end of the day, when you get into one of these tournaments, anywhere, they still have the burning desire to win," Korn said. "We pay them to win, we expect them to win, we have to win."

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