For the first time since 2011, a goaltender not named Braden Holtby will start in goal for the Washington Capitals to begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Philipp Grubauer started the regular season as the backup goaltender for the Washington Capitals, but after Holtby had a rather up and down regular season Grubauer saw an increase in ice time.
The 2016 Vezina Trophy winner (league’s best goaltender) finished the regular season with a 3.75 goals-against average and .886 save percentage in his final 17 games. Grubauer started 10 of the final 16 regular season games for the Metropolitan Division winners and went 7-3-0 in that span. He finished the regular season with a 2.06 GAA and .933 save percentage, numbers that rank among the best in the NHL since October 27th.
During Tuesday’s media availability season, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz stated that Grubauer simply “deserved the opportunity”
“I just think that Grubi deserves the opportunity…It sort of evolved all year. There wasn’t a date or anything like that. It just evolved and Grubi got more games and a bigger body of work.”
-Capitals Head Coach Barry Trotz
Trotz also made very clear that Grubauer is the starter for specifically game one. The rest of the series is up for grabs based off of performance, however he is not committing to alternating goalies.
When asked how he has prepared himself for this moment, Grubauer spoke to his increase in starts during the regular season.
“It helps playing more and more…The more you get on the ice, the more experience you get. You see different situations and different teams. If you sit on the bench, you can get good from watching, but you’ve got to get the experience.”
-Capitals Goalie Philipp Grubauer
Holtby has started 59 of the Capitals last 60 Stanley Cup Playoff games; the one game he did not start was won by Grubauer in 2015 against the New York Islanders.
The Capitals begin their quest for their first Stanley Cup Championship Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena. The Capitals won the season series against the Blue Jackets 3-1-0.