Photo: Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images
Philipp Grubauer went into Friday’s game against the league’s top team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, with an 0-5-1 record, a .876 save percentage and a 3.86 goals against average for the season. But the numbers bore little resemblance to the quality of his play.
The Capitals have squandered tremendous performances by Grubauer this season, including a 36-save performance against the Lightning on October 9 when the Caps lost 4-3 in overtime, and another in a 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames 20 days later. Grubauer had it with losing after he made 29 saves on 31 shots in the Capitals’ 3-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. He dropped the f-bomb in his postgame interview after the loss, showing uncharacteristic frustration.
Grubauer has been very unlucky when getting the nod this season, either because his offense doesn’t deliver, or his entire team hangs him out to dry, like when they lost 8-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers on October 14 and 6-2 to the Colorado Avalanche last Thursday.
In tonight’s victory against the Lightning, his teammates delivered. Grubauer stopped 25 of 26 Tampa Bay shots to backstop a Capitals’ 3-1 win against the best team in NHL. He improved to a 3-0-1 record in 4 career games against the Lightning and earned first-star of the game honors a day before his 26th birthday.
Grubauer’s best save of the night was on winger Ondrej Palat after he received a pass from behind the net from winger Alex Killorn. Grubauer stopped the shot with his left shoulder and then laid down in the crease to make sure the puck was still covered.
“The team did unbelievable. If we play like this the whole year, we are going to be really tough to beat. Everybody was working. Gaps were good. We didn’t give a lot up and we blocked a bunch of shots. It was an awesome win.”
“Yeah, I thought early they score a minute into the game. And you’re like here we go. Grubi settled in when it was 1-1. I thought Grubi made some really key saves for us… He settled in really well and they were getting people to the net and he was able to get a win. Our guys showed up and really wanted to win for Grubi,” Head Coach Barry Trotz said after the game.
After getting all of those second halves of back-to-back situations, Trotz decided to start Grubauer in the first game of this weekend’s back-to-back set. Braden Holtby will start against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre tomorrow.
Grubauer’s parents were also in the house to witness their son’s first victory of the season, which was very well-deserved.
— #CapsGiving🦃 (@Capitals) November 25, 2017
Grubauer was mobbed by his teammates and goaltender Braden Holtby after the Capitals won the game. He was happy and everyone else there was happy for him.
Fortunately for Grubauer and the Capitals, they will not have to make a decision about who starts first on the back-to-back for nearly three weeks. The Capitals next set of back-to-back games come on December 11 at the New York Islanders before coming back home to host the Colorado Avalanche the following night.
Happy Birthday, Grubi!
By Harrison Brown