Hello Grubi, and Goodbye Grubi

Posted February 7, 2015

Grubauer in Jan. 2014. (Caps Outsider)

Philipp Grubauer woke up Friday morning knowing that he would be called up to the Washington Capitals.

Grubauer was brought up to give Braden Holtby a breather, and Grubauer did quite well in the 3-2 shootout victory against the Anaheim Ducks.

“I was really, really happy I got a chance to play,” Grubauer said. “Ducks are the number one team in the league right now, and they are really hard. It was a really good challenge for us today.”

In only his 20th NHL game of his career, Grubauer stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced, giving the Caps a much needed win on the tail end of a back to back series. Grubauer’s win was the first win by a Capitals goalie not named Holtby since Nov. 8.

“He played quite well,” Barry Trotz said. “He has played a lot of games very well, and that is why we want to see him.”

Grubauer has been playing excellent hockey in Hershey. His 2.03 goals against average is the fifth best in the AHL, and his .924 save percentage is 13th.

But playing in the AHL is vastly different from the NHL, and Grubauer was thrown right into an NHL game with little preparation.

“He played really well,” Jason Chimera said. “He looked calm back there. I know when goalies look calm, they usually play really well. It’s a hard situation for him coming in, and he played really well.”

Not only did Grubauer get thrown into an entirely different league, but also an entirely different coach and playing style. This is the first game Grubauer has played under Trotz, but he seemed to immediately know a difference.

“I think it’s a little more compact,” Grubauer said. “Like guys do a pretty good job in the D-zone and keeping shots to the outside. I think we don’t give up as many high-quality chances as we did last year.”

So, why exactly was Grubauer brought up for a tough game against the Ducks? You’d initially think it’s because, well, Justin Peters has been nothing short of dreadful for the past several games, and Holtby would like a break every once in a while. While that may have played part of a role in the decision to bring up the German goaltender and send the young Swedish forward down, Trotz offered another reason.

“If you really look at our schedule, we targeted a date and this was the last back-to-back where it made sense travel-wise before the trade deadline,” Trotz said. “Once you get past the trade deadline, there are recall and all of that. You are only allowed so many and we didn’t want to burn any of those for a peak. So, that was the thought process on that.”

So Grubauer got to show the Washington coaching staff that, yes, he can play at the NHL level, even if it was just for one game. And the Caps will be happy to know that if things go very, very south with Washington’s goaltending, Grubauer is a nice backbone to have.

And so the young goaltender comes up for one game, wins it, then goes right back down. That’s pretty serviceable.

On Saturday, he was sent back to Hershey.