A lot has changed in Washington D.C. since last season, including the goalie situation. On the first day of free agency, new Caps GM Brian MacLellan signed veteran goalie Justin Peters to be Braden Holtby‘s back-up. That means goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer, who shined in a one-month stint with the team last December, will likely be relegated to the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears for most of next season.
I bring that up because, um, well, this is awkward. Grubauer’s new mask from Swedish airbrush artist David Gunnarsson is 100% Caps-flavored.
For almost two months, Adam Oates rode the hot hand in net with Philipp Grubauer. Grubi was impressive in his first extended look with the big-league team, putting up a 6-5-5 record, a .925 save percentage, and a 2.38 GAA in 17 games. In fact, Grubauer dominated so much that George McPhee felt comfortable enough to fill Michal Neuvirth’s trade request, thereby slating Grubi to become the Caps’ back-up goalie for the 2014-15 season.
With more opportunity soon on the horizon, Grubauer has commissioned crazy ol’ Swede David Gunnarsson to paint him a new Capitals themed mask. There’s nothing amazing here, but the design is still pretty baller. It’s like July 4th with Capitals logos.
Swedish artist David Gunnarsson released photos of the newest mask he finished painting this morning. Lo and behold, it’s for Washington Capitals starting goaltender Braden Holtby. Gunnarsson has entitled it “Number 70 of the Capitals.” The mask is stylized to go with the Caps’ third jerseys, the same vintage sweaters that they wore during the Winter Classic in 2011.
Goaltender David Leggio spent all of last season with Buffalo’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Rochester Americans. Leggio was dominant, winning 38 games and sporting a .924 save percentage. That performance merited MVP consideration at season’s end.
With Dany Sabourin having left during the offseason in favor of playing in Austria, the Hershey Bears were in desperate need of a veteran goaltender that could share the load and help mentor Capitals prospect Philipp Grubauer. Bears’ general manager Doug Yingst found his man in Leggio and signed the goaltender to a two-way contract for 2013-14.
“Obviously, the Bears are one of the best franchises in the AHL,” Leggio said to The Patriot-News’ Tim Leone during the summer. “They’ve won championships and the arena’s always packed. I’m very excited to come to a place where I feel we’ll have a chance to win a championship. They’ve won championships in the past and have a commitment to winning.”
On Tuesday, the Bears opened training camp and Leggio arrived in style. He just might have the coolest mask in the AHL.
Though recently we’ve seen him in a baseball cap more often than not, Michal Neuvirth‘s got a new mask. As with all Neuvy’s lids, the latest one was done by masterful Swedish airbrush artist Dave Gunnarsson, who posted pictures on his Facebook page. This is sad news for us at RMNB as Neuvy’s current Olie Kolzig Memorial Mask is a favorite of ours. The old mask lionizes former Capitals great Olie Kolzig on one side along and Czech netminder Jiří Holeček on the other. Neuvy has yet to wear his new mask, so the old one is still around for now.
The new mask features a large image of Washington’s Weagle logo on the front, but with the head chopped off and replaced with a more realistic rendering. The right side, as always, sports an image of Strekov Castle from Neuvirth’s hometown in the Czech Republic.
“Just as usual the design is pumped with details and hidden messages,” Gunnarsson, who designs masks for many NHL goaltenders, including Braden Holtby, wrote on Facebook. “It is so exciting to create a design in old school style mixed with top modern fx.”
I spoke with Braden Holtby on Saturday about his thoughts on Neuvirth’s new bucket. After I showed him the mask on my iPad, Holtby chuckled and flashed a big smile in approval. “Olie’s done a ton for the organization,” Holtby said, “so that’s pretty cool.”