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Capitals' Holtby on pace for big year

Goalie in Vezina, Hart conversation

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

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  • 03:55 •

NASHVILLE -- Go down the list of what is possible by considering everything he's already done this season, and the only conclusion is that 2016 could be a year in Braden Holtby's hockey career that he'll cherish forever.

The Washington Capitals all-star goalie has already helped put his team in contention to win the Presidents' Trophy. And although that doesn't necessarily mean success in a player's mind, it does mean home ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a better chance to get to the Stanley Cup Final, which means a chance to win the Stanley Cup.

For Holtby and the Capitals, it's realistic. They have arguably their best chance to win in the playoffs since captain Alex Ovechkin arrived in 2005.

Holtby could cap it with a Vezina Trophy, perhaps even a Hart Trophy.

That's just Part 1.

Part 2 is what could await Holtby in Toronto in September. With Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price's injury situation muddling his immediate future, Holtby (a native of Saskatchewan) has stormed ahead as the favorite to be Team Canada's No. 1 goalie at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Price could rebound, recover and regain his status as Canada's top goalie, if not the world's top goalie, but Holtby this season is doing exactly what Price did last season for the Canadiens. He's the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy and in the conversation for the Hart Trophy.

"Yeah, and my goal would be when the World Cup of Hockey comes around to still be exhausted from the end of the season, because that means you played into June," Holtby said. "But it's a long ways away and it's hard to imagine myself in anything like that."

So difficult, in fact, that Holtby, 26, emphatically said no when he was asked if he thinks about how special 2016 could be for him.

"It's even kind of hard to imagine myself here [at 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend] right now," Holtby said. "Growing up, every level I was never really the star player. I've always just kind of been having to prove myself at different areas and levels, and to be an NHL all-star just doesn't really seem right yet. I feel like I still have a lot of work to do. I know I do."

Which is why Holtby says it's easier for him to be a thinker, to focus on the present which wasn't always the case for him.

When he was playing in juniors or in the minor leagues, be it the East Coast Hockey League or the American Hockey League, Holtby said his mind wandered because he was nervous about his future, his career, what was ahead, and if he could make it.

He was confident, but he didn't know. No one does.

Holtby has made it, so the next step, and the only step he's thinking about, is to play as well coming out of All-Star Weekend as he was going into it. That would keep Holtby in position for a memorable 2016.

He is already 30-5-3 with a .929 save percentage and 2.07 goals-against average in 39 starts this season. He's on pace for 68 starts and 52 wins this season. Martin Brodeur holds the single-season record for wins with 48.

"It's been a long process with our organization the last few years," Holtby said. "We had to really look ourselves in the mirror a couple years ago and think about how we were doing things personally, as a team, everything. We didn't think we were doing good enough things on and off the ice to create a winning mentality, a Stanley Cup winning team. This year is the first year it's starting to click."

Video: PHI@WSH: Holtby keeps game tied with breakaway save

Holtby is receiving a lot of attention for it, but this Vezina Trophy favorite, maybe Stanley Cup favorite and potential Team Canada goalie, isn't focused on any of it. He's only thinking about today.

"If you can just focus on the present, that's really the only way you're going to go home happy at the end of the day," Holtby said. "If you focused on stuff that comes at the end of the year, playoff pressure, in January, you're not going to be enjoying every day and you're not going to be doing your best."

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