Philipp Grubauer took the net last night knowing that his performance could likely be outshined by Alexander Ovechkin’s 500th career goal. As a backup goalie, he is accustomed to standing in the shadows – especially being a back-up to league-leading goaltender Braden Holtby.
But last night, his star shined bright as he upped the Washington Capitals home winning streak to 10 consecutive games at the Verizon Center – the longest home winning streak for the Caps since the 2009-2010 season.
Playing in only eight of the Capitals first 41 games, Grubauer took the net last night against the Ottawa Senators. He stopped 32 of the 33 shots that the Sens sent his way, advancing his record to 5-3-1 for the season.
The Capitals rotation places Grubauer in goal about once every six games, and many goalies find the infrequency of play to be a difficult adjustment to make; however, Grubauer says, “the way Holts plays is amazing and just watching him I learn things too.” It’s also helpful that he gets to work with renowned goalie coach Mitch Korn.
As we can see from Holtby’s play as well as other goalies throughout the league, goalie performance is cyclical and seems to run in streaks. Unless there is an injury, backup goalies frequently have trouble creating some consistency, but Grubauer reports that “Even though I don’t play as much, I’m getting into the groove.” And a groove he did find last night, holding the Senators to a single goal. “Grubi [Grubauer] made a really good save and once he made that save you could see the momentum shift again and then we scored the 4th and 5th goal,” said Trotz about Grubauer’s performance in the second period.
Grubauer was drafted in the fourth round by the Capitals in 2010. Since that time, he has spent a majority of his time playing for the Capitals’ minor league affiliates including EHCL teams, the South Carolina Stingrays, the Reading Royals and the AHL’s Hershey Bears. His most notable NHL moment came last season when he became the first German-born goaltender to start and win a Stanley Cup playoff game.
While Grubauer will only stand in the net once or twice a month, it is noteworthy that the Capitals have a formidable presence available to stand in the gap to provide Holtby with needed relief. Regarding his game last night against the Senators, Trotz said, “We had respect for what Grubauer did. He just took care of business on the right side of the puck.” And as a result, he earned the third star of the game.
By Stephanie Judge