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Photo: Patrick Smith

Braden Holtby lay on his back with his eyes glazed over looking at the rafters of Madison Square Garden. Derek Stepan celebrated in the corner as the New York Rangers headed to the Eastern Conference Final. Holtby had posted one of the best postseasons performances in National Hockey League history with a save percentage of .944 and a goals against average of 1.71 over 13 games. He had kept the Capitals afloat all playoffs, but he finally cracked.

A year later, Holtby comes into the postseason on a team with one of the best assemblages of talent we’ve seen in recent memory. Holtby is still the Washington Capitals’ rock, but he no longer has to do everything himself. Last year, Holtby played in 73 games, the most of any goalie in the league. As usual, Holtby handled the pressure well, but there was a lot of it. This season, the Caps were able to play Braden less. With a strong backup in Philipp Grubauer, Washington didn’t need Holtby to win every single night. In return, he delivered a Vezina-caliber performance, matching Martin Brodeur for the most victories in a single season. But come Thursday night, Playoff Braden will return.

“There’s something about Holts,” Nate Schmidt said. “Even just watching the last two days of practice. He’s incredibly dialed in. He kicked it into another gear.”

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Photo: @WashCaps

With the Caps back from the all-star break, a third of the roster went on team-building event on Wednesday. Justin Williams, Braden Holtby, Marcus Johansson, Philipp Grubauer, Brooks Laich, Brooks Orpik, John Carlson, and Nicklas Backstrom braved a torrential downpour to take a private tour of The White House.

I’d give you more details, but the Caps didn’t share any. That’s okay; we’ve got social media.

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Photos: @WashCaps

Thursday night against the Islanders, the Washington Capitals will be hosting Military Night at Verizon Center. The Caps will pay tribute to the military by wearing camouflage jerseys during warm-ups, which will be signed and auctioned off after the game. Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer will also be wearing specially designed masks. They both have a green, black, and white color scheme and have the Courage Caps logos on the side.

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Photo: Jared Silber

On Friday night, after allowing goals on back-to-back shots, Braden Holtby was pulled in favor of backup netminder Philipp Grubauer with the Capitals down 3-0. Those goals, however, were not the result of Holtby’s poor play. Instead, the Capitals’ defense was at fault, which head coach Barry Trotz acknowledged after the game.

“I was tired of our team leaving him out to dry,” Trotz said.

The change jumpstarted the Capitals. The team went on to score five unanswered goals, easing the three-goal deficit left by Holtby and earning a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Grubauer was perfect in relief, making a key save right before TJ Oshie scored to narrow the gap to one.

On Sunday night, Holtby once again allowed goals on back-to-back shots as the Rangers took 3-1 lead into the first intermission. Nevertheless, Holtby was back out to start the second period. This time, however, Trotz did place blame on Holtby.

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Photo: Jacquelyn Martin

With the Capitals down 3-0 midway through Friday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz made a goalie change. He pulled star netminder Braden Holtby, the league’s leader in wins and goals against average, replacing him with backup Philipp Grubauer. Holtby slammed his stick on the bench before ripping off his mask off and kicking it down the tunnel to the locker room. No longer in control, Holtby was too agitated to sit down, watching play unfold with his hands on his hips for several minutes. It was the first time Holtby has been pulled all year.

“We’ve got so used to Braden being so strong for us that we tend to be a little loose sometimes,” Trotz told me Saturday morning. “He’s been erasing our mistakes. I was making a statement: enough’s enough. He’s been our MVP from game one on. Why are we doing this to him?”

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Swedish mask painter for the stars, Dave Gunnarsson, released what he called a “sneak peek” of Philipp Grubauer’s new mask for the 2015-16 season on Monday afternoon. The bucket’s design, which Gunnarsson specializes in, is stunning. The promotional video of said mask, which Gunnarsson does not specialize in, is bizarre.

Like can someone explain what is going on here?

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It sure sounds like the Justin Peters era, at least in Washington, is over. The Capitals announced Monday afternoon that they re-signed talented goaltending prospect Philipp Grubauer to a one-way, two-year deal. Per Mike Vogel, now that he is on his second NHL contract, Grubauer must pass through waivers to be reassigned to the AHL.

After the season ended, Caps’ general manager Brian MacLellan spoke to Mike Vogel and indicated Grubauer would finally be getting a full-time roster spot. “We’re going to give Galiev a shot,” MacLellan said. “Chris Brown is going to get a shot. [Goaltender Philipp] Grubauer is going to get a shot and Schmitty is going to get a shot. We’ve got some guys who have put in some time development-wise [at AHL Hershey], and it’s going to be up to them to perform. They’ll all have chances to make the roster.”

Grubauer played two games in Washington this season. He won both, including a wild 4-3 victory over the Islanders in game two of the first round. Congratulations on the promotion, Grubi.

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Photo: Kyle Mace / Chocolate Hockey

The Hershey Bears had a big night on Friday. They won 10-4, completing the best-of-five series against the Worchester Sharks in round one in four games.

Casey Wellman led the way with three goals and an assist, Chris Brown scored twice, Nate Schmidt, Cameron Schilling, Tim Kennedy, and Jakub Vrana all had three points in the game. Vrana also scored his first AHL goal.

The other goal-scorers included Dustin Gazley and Liam O’Brien.

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Photo: Greg Fiume

With Braden Holtby sick on Friday night, top prospect goaltender Philipp Grubauer made a spot start for the Capitals in game two. The Caps won the game 4-3, but in the process, Grubauer’s kryptonite might have been exposed: high shots to the glove side.

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Philipp Grubauer Will Start Game Two

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The Washington Capitals just announced that Philipp Grubauer will get the start tonight over Braden Holtby who is under the weather. Justin Peters will serve as the back-up. We knew something was up when the Holtbeast didn’t come out this evening for his pre-game visualization routine.

Around 6:45pm, Holtby arrived at Verizon Center according to CSN’s Jill Sorenson.

Alex Prewitt reports that the Caps will leave for New York immediately after the game and practice there Saturday.

So tonight should definitely be interesting with Grubi in goal!

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