In Losing Game 7, Holtby Proves He Belongs

In Losing Game 7, Holtby Proves He Belongs

One day last summer, long before he would wander into the teeth of Madison Square Garden, Braden Holtby hired an airbrush artist in Sweden to paint a new motif onto his hockey mask. Holtby, from Marshall, Saskatchewan, asked for the image of a roller coaster, ridden by an unfazed bear -- a clear symbol of his bittersweet bond with Hershey, Pa. Hershey was home to the Capitals' top minor-league affiliate, the Bears; a dozen or so roller coasters; and, at this point, despite a sterling 1.79 goals-against average and 10-2-2 record with Washington last year, the young netminder himself.

"Hershey's a great place," explained Holtby's father, Greg, a farmer and former junior-hockey goalie. "But it wasn't where Braden was hoping to be."

Where his 22-year-old son finally ended up was well beyond any of the Holtbys' hopes and dreams. Yes, Braden lost to the Rangers on Saturday, 2-1, making him the goalie of yet another Washington team to fall short of the Eastern conference finals, a streak dating back to 1998. But then, neither Holtby nor his family had ever fathomed him getting here, and starting a game this deep into the NHL playoffs, this soon.

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