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What's Up Magazine

15 Minutes with Braden Holtby

Feb 01, 2018 09:00AM

Photo by Michael Miller

By Tom Worgo

Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby understood he needed to improve some areas of his game, but he needed someone to help him unlock his potential to be a game changer. Enter Capitals former goalie coach Mitch Korn, who shares the same birthday as Holtby. Korn, now elevated to the team’s director of goaltending, helped Holtby develop into one of the best players at his position in the National Hockey League. Holtby relied too much on his athleticism to make saves before Korn joined the organization in 2014.

So, with Korn’s coaching, he leaned to reduce relying on explosive reflexes in favor of body control and a more conservative technique. How good has the now 28-year-old Holtby been?

In 2016, just a year after having the worst season of eight-year career, he won the Vezina Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s best goalie. That same year, Holtby, a fourth-round pick and a native of Saskatchewan, Canada, also tied Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur’s single-season record of 48 wins.

More recently, in November, the 6-foot-2, 217-pound Holtby (who signed a five-year, $30 million contract in 2015) became the second fastest goalie in NHL history to reach 200 wins. We recently sat down with Holtby to talk to him about Korn, what he does in the offseason for fun, his favorite city to visit on a road trip, and his charity work.

Your career and single-season win totals have gotten noticed. Is there a pride level in that?

That’s all I care about. If we win most of our games and my stats are horrible, it doesn’t matter. Winning is the main objective in hockey. So, it’s a team thing. It’s a lot more enjoyable that way, so it’s good. It’s means we are doing our job.
When a puck is coming at you at 100 miles per hour, what is going through your mind? Do instincts take over?

A lot of stuff goes through your mind in that situation. You are taking into account a multiplicity of different things in a split second. Where do they put the rebound? Where is the screen? Where is the tip option? Where can they take the puck? You are thinking of all that stuff from the moment the guy releases the puck to time it gets to you. We have worked at it for years.

Opponents will bump into you or are even knock your over on occasion. How do you keep your emotions in check?

I don’t get too frustrated unless it impedes me from making a save. It’s the only time it is frustrating. But it’s part of the game. It’s fun and it gets you into the game if you are getting bumped a little bit. 

You wanted to work on your game. Was it the case that you just needed someone like Korn to show you?

That was the thing. He [Korn] wanted to tighten things up and that was the one thing I knew that needed to be fixed. But really, I didn’t know how to do it. And he found ways.

What kind of tips or suggestions did Korn give you? 

He came in with a plan on how I could get better and fix some things that both of us thought could be changed. That’s why he is where he is. He is very good at his job, which is improving goaltenders. It was a great three years working with him. I had a lot of other coaching before him. I had bits and pieces that were very valuable and he kind of put it all together. 
Photo by Keith Allison

Korn was labeled as one of the best goalie coaches ever. Did you see that? 

He is an innovator. In a position where there is a lot of emphasis on coaching, he is at the top of that. He is always coming up with new ideas. He has adapted with every single style change over the years and he has usually been the first one to adapt. He lives and breathes hockey and watches it religiously.
You share the same birthday as Korn. What was your reaction to that?

That is a little strange, isn’t it. That’s one thing he pointed out pretty early. Its’ a good sign. I guess so.

Do you have any superstitions?

I don’t have any superstitions. Just a routine. Eating is important. My pre-game meal is chicken and pasta. You don’t want to eat a food that is going to make your stomach upset. You want to have the same type of thing and keep it simple.

What is your favorite city to visit on a road trip?

New York. I like the buzz in New York City. I like the hub of everybody working. I like to go see a Broadway show. I also like Los Angeles. I like the vibe there. You can hang out in Santa Monica or Venice and escape from hockey for a bit.

What do you like to do in the offseason for fun?

I go back to Saskatchewan and hang out on the lake. I have friends that live there and I hang out with them. We do camp fires and golf. I like to do landscaping and work around the house. I like to work with my hands. 

What charities do you devote your time to?

I’ve done work with inner city kids, hospitals, youth sports and hockey rinks. I do a lot of stuff with the team and you do the things that you think are the right things.