Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
Verizon Center paid tribute to its hometown goalies at Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche – both of them. The first star shone early in the evening when the Capitals paid tribute to Braden Holtby’s 2015-2016 Vezina Trophy winning season. The tribute included full center ice honors in a pre-game ceremony and gifts from Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis that included a framed #48 Capitals jersey, signifying the number of wins he totaled for the 2015-2016 season, and a new guitar. While this was Holtby’s night to shine, backup goalie Philipp Grubauer also earned the opportunity to bask in the limelight after blanking the Avalanche and earning his first career NHL shutout.
Grubauer blanks Avs for 1st shutout of NHL career, 3-0. #CapsAvs
— Mike Vogel (@VogsCaps) October 19, 2016
While Trotz pondered starting Grubauer on Braden Holtby night, he was compelled to do what he felt was best for the team. “I wanted him to play early here” said Trotz, “I think he’s going to be an important piece for us going forward”.
Trotz gave *some* thought to the fact that Grubauer is starting on Holtby’s night. But he said what’s best for the team always comes first.
— Tarik El-Bashir (@TarikCSN) October 18, 2016
With 22 starts and 16 wins during the 2016 season, Grubauer certainly earned his stripes with the Capitals in 2015-2016. He ranked third in rookie goal tenders in goals against average and tied for fifth in save percentage, but Trotz thought Grubauer deserved better. “I think Grubi got alot of the junk mail” said Trotz.”A lot of back to backs. The long trips and hard games. We gave him some junk assignments”. None of those “junk” assignments tarnished Grubauer’s spirit or attitude or he hid it very well. “He [Grubauer] works so hard for us everyday and it was fun that we could help him get a win and get the shut out,” said teammate Marcus Johannson.
Grubauer was in spectacular form though at times he was a very lonely keeper because from the onset of the game, the Capitals controlled the puck, limiting the Avalanche to 18 total shots on goal for the game — only two of those shots were inside 20 feet — regardless he said, “You’ve always got to keep your focus“. Grubauer said,”It feels good,” to get the shut out. “It took me a long time,” he continued, “but next game is soon enough so I’ll put it behind me and move on. The team did an amazing job“.
As composed as Grubauer was about his shutout, his team mates were excited for him, “It’s awesome” said Nicklas Backstrom, “It’s great for him to get a shut out“. Trotz elaborated, “The guys were so happy for him [Grubauer] because everyday he battles and works with Mitch. He gets a thousand pucks a day shot at him and doesn’t complain. The guys really wanted to make sure he got the shut out. He deserved it. I thought he was real sharp and it was a real good team win for us”.
By Stephanie Judge