Holden living the dream
St. Albert product an NHL fixture on Colorado's defence
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Apr 12, 2014 06:00 am
Rexall Place – Nick Holden is not taking his breakthrough season in the National Hockey League for granted with the Colorado Avalanche.
“I’ve got to continue to push and work hard,” said Holden, who ranks second in goals with 10 and is fourth in points with 24 among Colorado defencemen. “In my mind I’m not saying I’ve established myself and I’m not saying I’ve made it because I think if you get like that maybe you get a little complacent and somebody like me coming up is going to push you out.”
The 58th NHL game and the 51st with Colorado for the St. Albert product was Tuesday’s 4-1 victory over the hapless Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.
Holden, 26, had played in Colorado’s last 14 games and 37 of the last 39 contests, and one of those two games the former midget AAA Raider missed was so he could be at the birth of his son, Carter, on Jan. 11.
The six-foot-four and 207-pound blueliner is also plus-12 for the Western Conference contenders for the regular season title.
“At the beginning of the year I would have been happy just to get into the lineup but to be able to contribute offensively and still be relied on defensively is nice,” Holden told the Gazette after Colorado’s 51st win of the season.
“My confidence is great right now. It’s gotten better throughout the year and my game has gotten better as well. If the whole team is confident it helps every player be better and the whole team right now is very confident and very detail-oriented and that’s what we have to be going into the playoffs.”
On July 5 the St. Albert Catholic High School alumnus signed a two-year contract with Colorado ($600,000 per season, according to www.capgeek.com) as an unrestricted free agent after turning pro with the Columbus Blue Jackets, when he inked a three-year entry level contract as a free agent on March 28, 2008. Two years later he played his first NHL game and was plus one in the 3-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 20, 2010.
In 2011 he was re-signed by Columbus to a one-year, two-way contract.
Holden also earned his stripes in the American Hockey League during five seasons with the Columbus farm teams in Syracuse and Springfield. His best season was 2012/13 in Springfield as the team’s top defenceman with nine goals, 39 points and was plus-24 in 73 games.
This season Holden sat out the first 11 games with Colorado before making his debut against the Dallas Stars in the 3-2 overtime win Nov. 1 in Texas while filling for injured winger Jamie McGinn.
Nine days later Holden recorded his first point in 11 NHL games (seven with Columbus and four with Colorado) and his snap shot was the game winner in the 4-1 decision against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 10 in Denver. Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny assisted on the goal against netminder Braden Holtby to break a 1-1 tie in the second period.
The former Chilliwack Bruins captain set career highs with two goals (wrister to open the scoring and a slapper in the third against netminder Devan Dubnyk), three points and nine hits in the 5-4 road win versus the Nashville Predators on Jan. 18. In the process he became first NHL defenceman to register three points and nine hits in a game since Jiri Slegr of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2011 against the Buffalo Sabres.
Holden’s nine hits were also the most ever by a Colorado defenceman and he was the first Avalanche blueliner to have two goals and three points in a game since John-Michael Liles in 2010 against the St. Louis Blues.
After the win against Nashville, head coach Patrick Roy commented on Holden’s contribution to the team.
“He’s been very impressive,” Roy told reporters. “We signed him as a call-up and he came to the camp and played so well. I said, ‘Hey, listen, you’re going to start with us’ and it’s been like this. He’s been very patient at the beginning of the year. He didn’t play much and lately he’s had his opportunity and he’s taken advantage of it. I like his speed, he’s jumping in the rush well and, you know what, his game is improving defensively as well and I’m very happy for him.”
Injuries allowed Holden to break into the lineup and when opportunity knocked he answered the door.
“My season has progressed a ton and I’ve gotten a little more ice time and a little more responsibility, which is nice,” he said. “I’m doing what the coaches want me to improve on; managing my game, know when to pinch and when not to pinch and when to do certain things. Early on when I was getting in that was one of the things we were really working on.”
Holden’s 10th goal was scored April 5 against the Blues, a backhander to make it 3-0 as Colorado went on to win a key central division tilt 4-0 in St. Louis.
Tuesday he came within a whisker of filling the net against the Oilers in the second period by darting in from the point undetected but his shot was turned aside by netminder Ben Scrivens.
“With our system I’m able to jump into the play and kind of get close to the goal and that’s where I’m scoring most of my goals, but with a lot of them this year I’ve had a couple of nice bounces definitely,” said Holden, who led all Western Hockey League defencemen in goals with 22 and finished third in points with 60 in his final season with Chilliwack in 2007/08.
Holden’s first trip home was Dec. 5 and he was the only bright spot for Colorado in the 8-2 loss while notching the second goal (deflected shot past Dubnyk) and third point of his NHL career in his 15th game and eighth with Colorado.
In Tuesday’s win Holden was plus-one and had 28 shifts during 20:42 minutes of ice time. He also had a centering pass by David Perron hit his skate and slip past netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere during an Oilers’ power play to make it 1-1 in the first.
“You only get to come home and play in front of your family and friends every once in a while and it’s a thrill, just because of all the support that you’ve gotten growing up and through all the years of being driven (to and from practices and games) and all the people that have helped you so for them to be able to come to the games and enjoy and see you playing out there is a special thing,” said Holden, who had dinner at his parents’ place in St. Albert the night before the game.
Next week Holden is expected to play in his first NHL playoff game as Colorado begins its quest for the Stanley Cup.
“Right now we’re at a good spot where we’re rolling going into playoffs,” Holden said. “If we continue to play like we have been and again keep to the details and play our game who knows what we can do in the playoffs. We could make some noise for sure.”