Lars Eller always looks like he's smelling something fowl.
Philipp Grubauer – The Sophomore Settles In
Philipp Grubauer makes a save against Andrew Conboy of the Trenton Titans on Saturday, November 3, 2012. (All Photos Credit: M. Richter)
Having made the trip between Hershey and Reading several times already this year, second-year pro and Capitals prospect Philipp Grubauer has seen his fair share of the great state of Pennsylvania. “It’s pretty nice, so far. I like it, because it’s the same weather as back home [in Rosenheim, Germany].”
The twenty year-old goaltender is no stranger to new places, having changed teams four times since coming over to North America to gain experience on NHL-sized rinks in 2008 at the age of 16. As he explained when talking about his newest winter home, “[It’s] almost same cities as in Canada where I played a couple of years ago, so not a big change for me.”
He’s worn a total of six different jerseys in that four year period – three OHL teams (Belleville, Windsor, and Kingston), two ECHL teams (South Carolina and Reading), and one AHL team (Hershey). The only reason he failed to backstop his team in the playoffs during the last two years was a combination of illness (mononucleosis in 2011) and injury (wrist surgery in 2012).
In fact, Grubauer has gotten so comfortable shuffling teams that he’s still using his pads from last year’s Capitals affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays. When asked about his decision to stick with the red and blue, he explained that he’s “been keeping [these pads] from last year, but the new ones are coming. It’s a matter of timing.”
While not ranking quite as highly as he did in his rookie year, Grubauer is still putting up impressive numbers as his season gets underway. He carries a GAA of 2.35 after six ECHL games (8th in the league), and a save percentage of 0.902 (17th, at the moment). These stats were earned during Reading’s disconcertingly rough start to the season (the team started off 1-5-0-1, but has now improved to 4-5-0-1), and it’s worth noting that Grubauer has been in net for the team’s current three game winning streak.
Reading’s Head Coach Larry Courville actively credits him as a major factor in the team’s recent success. “I think that Phil’s done a very good job with – when they’ve had opportunities – stopping the puck. Especially the last couple of games… He made some key saves [on Friday night] in that win, and he made some more [on Saturday].”
Prior to those victories, Grubauer had bounced between Reading and Hershey several times, and he started his first regular season AHL game – an overtime loss to the Binghamton Senators on October 21.
Following that debut, his most recent reassignment to Reading happened to coincide with Hurricane Sandy sweeping through the region. The goaltender weathered the main part of the storm in Hershey, an event quite unlike anything he’d encountered growing up in landlocked Germany. “I was told it wasn’t as bad here in Reading, but it was probably bad in Hershey. I drove up the next day, was kind of risky and windy. [I’d] never experienced that, and it was a little bit fun, like buying flashlights and crackers and drinks and stuff for a power outage. Luckily, nobody got bad weather down here.”
With the situation as it currently stands, Caps fans should plan to see Grubauer holding down the starting position in Reading with an occasional call-up to Hershey whenever Braden Holtby or Dany Sabourin is out of the lineup. Should the NHL work stoppage be resolved in time for a partial season, expect to see him make the jump to Hershey permanently.