Holloway Lifting Game To New Heights
By Rich Hammond, LAKings.com
His given name is George, he answers to "Bud" and it seems as though everywhere he plays hockey, he’s known as a big-time scorer in the postseason.
Bud Holloway scored 19 goals for Manchester in the regular season this year, a solid total, but his reputation has soared in the playoffs. Holloway has six goals (all of them game-winning goals) in nine games for the Monarchs during the AHL playoffs.
Manchester leads the Worcester Sharks 3-2 in the second round of the playoffs, and the Monarchs host Game 6 on Friday night. A victory would send them to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Hershey Bears, the AHL’s best regular-season team.
Holloway, 22, is a big reason why the Monarchs are in position to reach the conference finals for the second time in their nine seasons as the Kings’ top minor-league team.
The Monarchs swept Portland in the first round, and Holloway scored four game-winning goals, including one in overtime. Holloway also scored in overtime to even the series against Worcester at 1-1, and his first-period goal on Wednesday held up as the only goal in the Monarchs’ 1-0 victory over the Sharks in Game 5.
Holloway’s six game-winning goals are already the most any AHL player has ever scored in a single playoff year, and there’s still the potential for two more rounds.
"He's been a lot more determined to win puck battles, and he's shooting a lot more than he did early in the year," coach Mark Morris said. "I think his confidence level is way up there. He's more involved in the fray and he's certainly got a knack for the net. He tends to find those open areas and is able to make quick plays in tight areas. I think the fact that he's starting to pull the trigger has made a world of difference in his production.’‘
This is not totally uncommon for Holloway, a third-round draft pick of the Kings in 2006.
In his final season of juniors (2007-08) with Seattle of the Western Hockey League, Holloway had five goals in 12 playoff games. Last season, with the Ontario Reign of the East Coast Hockey League, Holloway had five goals in seven playoff games.
So, in his last 28 playoff games -- albeit at different levels -- Holloway has 16 goals. Coincidence, or is there something about playoff hockey that brings the best out of him?
"When you're a kid, you always live for the playoffs," Holloway said. "You love watching playoff hockey, and when you're not, you're out on the street playing best-of-seven and stuff. It's an unbelievable time of year to play hockey. It's so much fun because every game is so important. You just kind of ramp up your play, and it seems to be going good."
It’s worth noting that good timing has played a part in Holloway’s success. Two of his game-winning goals have come in overtime, and one was in the third period, but two others were first-period goals that held up as the game’s decisive goals.
Still, the goals are going in, and nobody in AHL history has more game-winning goals in a single postseason. Darren Haydar also had six game-winning goals for the Milwaukee Admirals in the 2006 Calder Cup playoffs.
"Obviously you never know, when you get one, if it's going to stick as the game-winner," Holloway said. "I've been kind of laughing over it, and obviously happy with the way it's been going. They've been finding my stick and I've been getting them off right away and they've been going in. The other half is that the boys are really playing great in the D-zone. The last one was a 1-0 game and a goal in the first period. Bernie [goalie Jonathan Bernier] deserves the credit just as much as me.
"But it's nice to have confidence. For me to get those goals, it makes me feel better with my play and makes me think that I've got more of a knack around the net. I know if we do go down a goal or something, I've got the ability to get it back and the team has the ability, if we go down one or if it's a tight game, to get the goals."
Injuries have limited the Monarchs’ consistency this season, but Holloway is finding success on a line with center Justin Azevedo and Dwight King, a line of contrasts.
Holloway, listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, is matched with the diminutive but talented Azevedo (5-7, 180 pounds) and the bruising King (6-3, 220 pounds).
It remains to be seen, based on general manager Dean Lombardi’s summer moves, how many spots will be open on the Kings’ roster next season. Morris said that if Holloway, who has yet to appear in an NHL game, is to make an impact with the Kings one day, he will need to showcase his goal-scoring ability.
"He's more on the offensive side," Morris said. "He's still learning the defensive game. His awareness in his own zone is improving. Little things like shot blocking, staying in lanes and awareness of pressure over his shoulder, all of those things have taken a step forward. I think that, on the offensive side, playing better defense has given him more offensive opportunities. When he's playing on the right side of the puck, it's paying great dividends for our team here, especially over the last few weeks."
Holloway will likely participate in the Kings’ annual developmental camp in July, and then will have a chance to impress in September at the full training camp, but Holloway said he’s not thinking that far ahead yet.
"Obviously the most important thing is right now and getting the next win, game to game," Holloway said. "I haven't really given a lot of thought to it. It's just something that I'll take when I get there, that kind of deal. Right now, this is a great group of guys and I love playing with them, so we'll go as long as we can."