Photo credit: Bruce Bennett
For the ninth time in 11 games, Philipp Grubauer will be in net for the Washington Capitals on Monday. Originally called up to fill space on the bench while Michal Neuvirth was out with an ankle injury, Grubi has surprisingly become the Capitals’ number one netminder. And he has the numbers to back it up. Since being called up at the end of November, Grubauer has a save percentage of .937. During that same span, Braden Holtby has a save percentage of just .863. Adam Oates continues to play the hot hand. Sunday night, news broke that Neuvy was fed up, with his agent requesting a trade.
Since Grubauer is seeing so much ice time, Ian and I wanted to get to know the 22-year-old German better. Here’s his conversation with RMNB from Saturday, with some questions from ya boys Chuck Gormley and Katie Carrera towards the very end.
When you’re having a year like this, in-between two teams, do you buy Washington color pads and blockers?
It’s funny that you ask. My new gear came in today and it’s all Washington colors. I’ll break them in next week.
How long does the breaking in process take?
Probably glove is more easier than the pads because pads are so stiff so you can’t move. Neuvy has those pads for a while breaking them in but usually it takes me a week.
What has it meant to get a shot in net the past few weeks so soon in your career?
It’s tremendous. I want to be up here. That’s the dream I followed growing up– to play in the National Hockey League. It’s been a good couple days for me up here. Every day is a good day. I try to keep up here and give the guys a chance to win every night.
A lot of guys have said you kind of have an unorthodox style in net. Can you describe it?
Well, there’s always the typical butterfly goalie on the ice so I kind of stay away from that. It’s probably a mix of a little bit old school and butterfly, but I don’t really notice too much. Whatever works, eh?
You’re very good at going to the splits. Where do you learn to have so much explosiveness?
It’s probably one of the strengths of my game, being flexible, explosive. I don’t know. I’ve just got a loose body, loose joints. I don’t have any problems with that. Olie [Kolzig] always says ‘Your groins! How do you do that?’ It’s all natural to me.
Which goalies did you model your style of goaltending after?
Robert Müller, but he passed away a couple of years ago. He was a prospect of Washington too. [Ed. note: Müller, who died of a brain tumor in 2009, was also from Grubauer’s hometown of Rosenheim.] Marty Brodeur. Olie Kolzig, of course, because he was the one German goaltender who played the most minutes, the most games in the NHL. I looked up to those three.
Did you watch Olie a lot growing up as a kid?
Who was your favorite team growing up?
I didn’t really have one. Whoever won was my favorite team.
You may end up staying here, you may end up going down to Hershey. What’s your mindset moving forward?
Right now it’s just game to game. Next game in Buffalo and then the game in Ottawa. That’s what I’m focused on right now. I can’t change what they will do. I try to not get it affect me. Just focus day-to-day.
What was your town like growing up?
Well my town was a small town, 60,000 probably. But back in the days of the First League it was the biggest hockey town in south, Rosenheim. Growing up I always went to games with my mom. That’s how I got into hockey. In town not many guys made it to the NHL so I’m pretty proud of what I did so far representing my hometown and my country.
How old were you when you started?
I started skating at three and got into team at four or five.
Were you always a goalie?
No. Until I was 13 or 14 I played forward. So when we played the bad teams I would play defense and when we played I switched back into the net, which was fun. I always liked going out on the ice and shooting a couple pucks.
When did you start playing goalie full time?
I started when I was six probably, but I always switched so I didn’t really have one point when I said I was goalie full time.
Did playing defense help your understanding of the game?
Sometimes it helps you to know what the player is thinking, what’s his opportunity.
Does it help to have that common bond with Olie?
Well, we don’t speak too much German up here! He has so much experience and then his experience helps us. He knows the game.
Was there a time when you said, ‘Okay I want to be in the NHL?’
I always watched Don Cherry videos. [Ed. note: He’s referring to Don Cherry’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Hockey, a series of yearly highlight tapes produced since 1989.] I always jumped on the bed and tried to copy the saves of [Felix] Potvin and Mike Richter when they still played. I said ‘I want to play there too.’
Of all things, it’s Don Cherry.
It’s all we had back in Germany. We couldn’t watch the games so my dad bought the Don Cherry videos on those tapes, not the CDs…
How do you stay calm after allowing a goal?
I don’t really know. If you get scored you can’t let that get to you, especially in the NHL. The game happens so fast so you gotta always be prepared for the next shot. Think about what you did wrong and move on.
Have your parents had a chance to see you play?
There were here four or five weeks ago in Hershey.
Have they seen you in the NHL?
Well they always watch on lifestream or Apple TV. Not live. But maybe soon! My girlfriend is coming over today so she might see one or two games.
Is she in Germany?
Yep. She’s in school.
This interview was condensed because it was freakin’ long.
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