Braden Holtby of Capital, coach Todd Reirden addresses uncertainty after early playoff exit

Braden Holtby may have played his last game with the Washington Capitals.

“Sure, there’s a chance it is,” said the goaltender, whose team on the tongue-in-cheek left the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 4-0 loss to the Islanders when New York defeated the Caps in five games eliminate. “But who knows? You live one day at a time.”

Holtby, who backed Washington after the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history in 2018, is an unlimited free agent. He shared the shrinkage this season with 22-year-old Ilya Samsonov, who is considered the goalkeeper of the Capitals of the future.

“I’m disappointed. We had more to give and we found no way to do that,” the 30-year-old Holtby said. “This one will stick a little.”

Washington’s defeat at the hands of the islanders stinks on a few levels. The Capitals were the favorites to enter the series, after being 10 points better than New York in the regular season. They were the NHL’s second-best official team in the regular season with an average of 3.42 goals per game, but they scored just 1.63 goals per game in eight postseason games, including eight goals in five games against the founding defense system of the Islanders.

The coach behind that system is Barry Trotz, who led the Capitals to the Stanley Cup in 2018, but split with the team in a contract dispute after the season before joining the Islanders.

Holtby had a conversation with his former coach in the post-series handshake line with the Islanders.

“We had a lot of success when he was here. A boy I have a lot of respect for. He’s an honest boy. I just wish him the best because he’s one of the good guys in hockey, said Holtby.

Todd Reirden replaced Trotz as coach and has been behind two consecutive losses of the first round behind the bench. He said the five-game loss to the Islanders was “unacceptable to our organization”, and that although the team continued its run of success in the regular season, “in these playoff situations, we have not been able to has been our best hockey. “

Reirden notes that last season’s elimination in the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes differs from this loss to the Islanders, as the postseason was held in a “hub” town in neutral location in Toronto, after a month-long break amid coronavirus pandemic.

“For whatever reason, during our time in Toronto, our team was not able to get to our game mentally and physically long enough. We had one game where we did it,” Reirden said. “That will be something we will reconsider.”

Reirden himself could also be re-evaluated.

“That’s part of the job. It’s not something I think about every day. I go into it with a plan on how our team can get better and improve our players and do it with passion, pride and work ethic, “he said. “I’m sure I’m a young coach who continues to improve and keep getting better, and has managed to find success in the regular season, and that it is not in two completely different circumstances in the playoffs. I do not have all the answers at the moment. We will go away for a moment and see and dissect why it happened. “

The Capitals came up for some injury setbacks in the series, losing star center Nicklas Backstrom to a three-game concussion. Norris Trophy-nominated defender John Carlson was injured in the team’s exposure game against Carolina and missed the round robin games, even though he played against the Islanders. Samsonov was injured at the break of the season and did not accompany the team to the bubble.

“Of course I will never make an apology,” Reirden said. “It’s disappointing. … We go through much of the season injury-free and then come up with something here once we arrived in Toronto and some before we even came back from the start of the break, two important pieces. But that’s our responsibility to people to take advantage of those situations, to take advantage of that opportunity, and we have not done that. “

Holtby is one of the few free agents on the team this entire season. The capitals have 16 players under contract for next season, many on long-term contracts. Their core is getting older, but Backstrom said he believes they have “absolutely” more Stanley Cup runs in them.

“Every year is our goal to make the playoffs, and anything can happen there. Just look back at 2018. Nobody thought we could win that year,” he said. “We aim in our group to get better and win more championships.”