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Training Camp

Braden Holtby focused on improving, Capitals' success

Reigning Vezina Trophy winner not concerned with his own numbers

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- As far as Braden Holtby is concerned, what he did last season is in the past.

That the Washington Capitals goaltender is coming off an NHL career-best season when he tied Martin Brodeur's League record of 48 wins and won the Vezina Trophy for the first time isn't relevant to his preparation for this season.

"Those are just statistical things," Holtby said Wednesday. "Maybe in the future [I'll] tell my grandkids or something, but really it makes no difference to me right now."

Instead of worrying about what he'll do for an encore, Holtby's focus is on helping the Capitals write a better ending to this season. After the Capitals set their record with 56 wins and won the Presidents' Trophy with 120 points last season, they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the Eastern Conference Second Round.

That the rival Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup didn't lessen the sting for the Capitals, who will open their season at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh and witness the championship banner being raised on Oct. 13.

"All I want to do is just be a better goalie at the end of this year than I am right now," Holtby said. "That's the goal right now, personally. And team-wise, there's, obviously, the Stanley Cup. Those are two goals I have every season, and they don't change."

Individually, it will be difficult for Holtby, 27, to top what he did last season. In 66 games, he went 48-9-7 with a 2.20 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.

After setting the wins record and winning the Vezina Trophy in 2006-07 with the New Jersey Devils, Brodeur had 44 wins and won the Vezina again in 2007-08. The only statistical goal Holtby acknowledged having is 40 wins; it would be his third consecutive season with at least that many.

"You try to get to 40 wins every year," he said. "That means you're in the playoffs."

Coach Barry Trotz suggested that Holtby is in a similar situation to the one the Capitals face as a team.

Video: STL@WSH: Holtby snags Rattie's deflection

"I don't know if there's a secret to that," Trotz said. "How do we follow up the year that we had when you have the best record [in the League]? I think you just park it. Our ultimate goal is not to have a better regular season. Our goal is to have a better finish to our season. There's only one happy team at the end of it, so we want to be a happy team at the end here if we can."

Holtby's preparation for the season has been disjointed because of the World Cup of Hockey 2016. On almost any other team in the world, Holtby would have been the clear-cut No. 1, but on Team Canada he was the No. 3 behind Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Holtby arrived at the Capitals' training facility earlier than usual this offseason to work with goalie coach Mitch Korn, but after reporting for training camp with Team Canada, he saw no game action other than an appearance in a pretournament game against Team USA in Ottawa on Sept. 10. For practices, he shared a net with Crawford.

Although Holtby dressed as the backup for one preliminary round game, he was in street clothes for the rest of Team Canada's undefeated run to the championship. Because of that, it was difficult for Holtby to feel like he was part of Team Canada winning.

"Winning has to do with when you play, when you're on the ice," he said. "If you're in the locker room being an energy guy, you can do that even in a backup role. But we weren't in that. We were there and hoping to be part of the winning. It was fun to see how it happens and how the guys prepare. That was best part about it."

Video: WSH@PIT, Gm6: Holtby, Beagle deny series of chances

That and getting to work each day with Price, Crawford and the rest of Team Canada's world-class players.

"It was good to learn a little more information from those players," he said. "You don't know if it's a positive or a negative to be away from the team during camp. But there's things to take away there."

Since returning to the Capitals, Holtby has played in two preseason games and made saves on 37 of the 39 shots he faced.

"It feels like every preseason," he said. "It's really no different. I don't know why people are making a big deal of it. It's no different to me. … It's not like I came here without ever touching the ice."

Holtby was not scheduled to play against the St. Louis Blues in Kansas City on Wednesday, but Trotz said he likely will play in the two remaining preseason games after that to tune up for the regular-season opener.

"I think, just with his experience, he's going to be fine," Trotz said. "He's worked hard with Mitch, and [with] a couple more games, he'll be back. What he's been able to do, separating how he was two years ago, I think he can sort of park some things and he can work through things. He's a lot smarter in how he plays goal. He's a lot more efficient. I think his day-in and day-out preparation has probably changed a little bit and his confidence level after winning the Vezina.

"He's had great success the last two years. He knows he's a good goaltender. Working with Mitch the way he has, a couple more (preseason) games, I think he'll be good to go."

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