Grubauer's vacant locker at Kettler (Photo: Chris Gordon)

Grubauer’s vacant locker at Kettler (Photo: Chris Gordon)

Photo: Mike Carlson

For nearly two months, the Capitals have had a logjam in net. Called up in place of the injured Michal Neuvirth at the end of November, Philipp Grubauer became Washington’s number one netminder. A veteran of just two NHL games before this season, Grubauer posted the seventh highest save percentage in the league (.926), along with a record of 6-4-5 and a goals against average of 2.38.

Desperate for points, Caps head coach Adam Oates stuck with him, with Grubauer starting 14 of 20 games. Grubauer, though, came back to earth. The morning after being pulled for the second straight game — Washington’s fifth loss in a row — Grubauer was not on the ice for the day’s practice. The Caps quickly announced that he had been sent down to Hershey.

“We lost that spark in a sense,” Oates said of Grubauer’s recent losses. He didn’t blame the young German for them though.

“Three goalies is not a good situation,” Oates continued. “It’s a little dysfunctional for everybody, but it’s a situation that, unfortunately, just happened.”

Because of Oates’s decision to ride Grubauer, the other two goalies were left sulking. Neuvirth spent all of December in the press box, leading his agent to request a trade. The benching also cost Neuvirth a spot on the Czech Olympic team. Since then, Neuvy has played in two games. His first, on January 10, was brilliant, though he dropped off during Wednesday’s game in Pittsburgh, allowing four goals. He has a record of 3-4-1 this season with a save percentage of .913 and a goals against average 2.87.

“I don’t think about it,” Neuvy said when asked if he had reconsidered the trade request. “My job is to play for Washington Capitals and I’m focusing on playing for this team and I don’t worry about anything else.”

“I’m pretty excited,” he added.

Braden Holtby saw more time in net than Neuvirth, though his returns to the lineup were uglier. He allowed five goals in three straight starts in place of Grubauer, before picking up his game lately after Grubauer’s early exits. The time off was also tough on Holtby, seen as the team’s number one netminder heading into the season. While he played well the first two months of the season, Holtby’s splits took a dive during the winter. He currently has a record of 13-11-2 with a save percentage of .911 and a GAA of 3.04.

“I felt more natural,” Holtby said of his recent play. “I felt more like myself out there which is good.”

Things should return to normal in Washington’s crease. Neuvy and Holts will battle for the number one spot. No one, certainly, wants to get in the game of predicting how that will turn out. Finally, though, both have their own net during practice. For games, one will start and the other will back up.

“That’s why teams carry two goalies,” Holtby said.

“We need one of those guys to step up and take it over,” added Oates.

  • Hockey Mom

    Well, at least we still have him…If someone snags Oleksy, he’s gone for good! THIS STINKS!!!

  • Barry

    I think we can all agree a little less chaos in the crease will be good for everyone. Grubs was great, but to let two talented and very capable goaltenders rot in hopes that it will somehow help a team with way deeper problems than the one in net is just ridiculous.

  • He probably won’t be claimed. He’s pretty bad.

  • Hockey Mom

    I guess I just don’t want it to end this way…He’s a guy with a dream that busted his butt to make it come true. He plays hard, has a lot of heart and is so great to the fans. Good things and success couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, and I was hoping they would happen for him in a Caps sweater.

  • Eddie

    “Three goalies is not a good situation,” Oates continued. “It’s a little
    dysfunctional for everybody, but it’s a situation that, unfortunately,
    just happened.”
    Motherf–ker, it didn’t just happen. You created it, you solve it. Messing with two goaltenders’ heads by bringing in a third isn’t going to improve their morale. It’s acceptable if one of them is injured, but if both of them are ready to go, you send the third back down. Plain and simple. Anything else is just asking for what the team and the fans are unfortunately getting. You sowed the discord, you reap the hell out of it. I’m tired of this stuff.

  • harjot singh

    Grubs will be back after the trade deadline

  • Graham Dumas

    If you’re worried about Steve-O personally, think about it this way: a) he gets claimed, and plays for another team; b) he doesn’t get claimed, spends some time playing in Hershey, and comes back with the Caps. I’m pretty sure those are his options, and either way, he’s playing hockey. Not the worst outcome ever.

  • VeggieTart

    Oates: “Three goalies is not a good situation.” Gee, ya think? I think everyone BUT Oates figured out long ago that once your injured goalie recovers, the third goalie goes back to the AHL. It happened when Holtby was called up in 2011 after Varlamov was injured. Holtby filled in for Neuvy in one game after Neuvy took a puck to the mask and performed lights out in March 2011. But when Varly came back from his injuries, Holtby went back to Hershey.

    That’s how it works. The day Neuvirth was able to dress for Washington, the team should have told Grubauer, hey, thanks, man, you played great, but you gotta go back to Hershey while we have two healthy goaltenders. Which makes me wonder why they didn’t send him back earlier.

  • rotational

    It’s a good thing the Caps have a solid defensive corps, that they can afford to waive a smart and hard-nosed guy who’s a dependable 4th/5th/6th D and makes good decisions.

  • Adam Fink

    Im really glad Grubauer is back in Hershey. Great goalie, but we need to play Holtby through his slump and also market Neuvirth a bit.

    If Oleksy gets snagged I will be furious, solid 3rd pair dman who sticks up for the other guys.

  • Hockey Mom

    Yes, he does get to keep playing hockey, and I’m glad the Caps gave him a “shot”. I think what bugs me, is that I don’t feel like he got a fair shake. Of all our D-men, I felt like his play was improving and he was really working on it: he came away with several assists and a couple of goals, so not a terrible showing on his part…I just didn’t understand why he was being scratched and is now being waivered when he didn’t seem–to me, at least– to be screwing up as badly as some of guys on the roster.

  • Graham Dumas

    Yeah, agreed.

  • Tyler

    Agreed Hockey Mom. Steve’s kindness toward my son is the reason I became a hockey fan in the first place. He is truly a very kind guy. I have to assume (understanding that I don’t know anything about salary, caps, stats etc) that there is a good reason for this. But, I am finding it hard to muster any Caps enthusiasm today. Not sure how I’m going to break it to my son:(.

  • erinamanda13


  • OlietheGoalie

    What. The. Fuck.

    So the kid comes up. Does spectacular. Then Oates starts this stupid roulette in the net, so we send him down because his confidence starts to shake just like Holtby and Neuvy?

    I mean, I get it. We can’t have 3 goalies. But it’s not his fault, he did great, and this is all on Oates. Honestly, keep Grubby up, trade Neuvy, and hope Holtby gets out of his funk. We only have Neuvy because we put all our cards that Varlamov wasn’t the answer (still a dumb move to get rid of him), and Neuvirth has already proven he’s not #1.

  • OlietheGoalie

    -sarcasm meter explodes-

  • OlietheGoalie

    Do you ever post anything pro-Caps?

  • Just being honest.

    I like Olesky but put him on Chicago, Anaheim, Boston etc. he doesn’t even get a jersey.

  • RL

    You do realize that there are more than three teams in the NHL? Half of our roster wouldn’t have a spot on the Blackhawks. Most teams aren’t the Blackhawks.

  • Rhino40

    So much for my Shirt Idea: “We work for Gru”