Philipp Grubauer has played a little over five games of NHL hockey this season, and he’s been spectacular. Sporting a .940 save percentage, Grubi has been relied on to field a lot of pucks– 184 to be precise. Meanwhile, as Braden Holtby has struggled all December, there’s an understandable tendency to rank Grubauer above Holtby and dub him the team’s number-one goalie.
This would be unwise. In just six games of hockey, a .940 tell us very little. And in just six games of hockey, even the best goaltender in the world can look like a bum.
On December 15, 2013, In Interview, By Chris Gordon
Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
For the first two months of the season, Braden Holtby was the Capitals’ rock. While the team struggled 5-on-5, Holtby’s excellent goaltending — despite facing some of the highest shot totals in the league — kept the team in games. The 24-year-old started every night from late October to early December, a span of 13 games. The workload, though, eventually caught up with him. After allowing three goals early against the Carolina Hurricanes in December, Holtby was pulled. Enter a new rock: Philipp Grubauer. After being called up in place of the injured Michal Neuvirth, Grubauer has played in five of seven games, starting three. He’s picked up three wins, posting a .937 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.06. He narrowly missed his first career shutout earlier this month.
“I soak it all in just being up here,” Grubauer told me. “I’ve been through almost every league: East Coast, AHL. It’s tough to get up here, but once you get up here you gotta make sure you stay. I’m just happy to be up here, and I work my butt off.”
Tom Wilson and Madison Bowey during Caps Development Camp in July. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)
[Editor’s Note: Fedor has reported on Washington Capitals prospects for RMNB for the last three years. This year we’re proud to introduce his prospect rankings. The rankings will be updated three times during the season– with the goal of updating you on how prospects are or not progressing. The first edition of the rankings come on the second day of Rookie Camp, as Caps prospects jockey for position within the organization.]
The Washington Capitals have re-stocked their prospect pipeline over the past two NHL drafts, giving fans a wealth of new players to get excited about in addition to a few solid free-agent prospects signings.
The 2012 Draft is turning out be a sterling spot on George McPhee’s resume. After picking Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson in the first round, GMGM made a few strong picks in the latter rounds with Thomas DiPauli, Connor Carrick, Riley Barber, and Christian Djoos– all of whom have been invited to their junior national team camps and left good impressions.
Depth on defense is an area of strength for this crop of talent, with more than a few prospects ready to compete for roster spots as soon as they open.
Below, check out inaugural edition of the RMNB prospect rankings.
On February 27, 2013, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo credit: Elsa
Washcaps Philaflyers. Last game good. This game less good. Make words hurt so use less. Puck not in good net. Puck in bad net. Giroux make goal. Simmonds make goal. Gagne make goal. Maxbag Talbutt make goal. Ward make goal make Bryz sad. Groooooooooooo.
Bears goalie Philipp Grubauer has been called up from AHL Hershey. Braden Holtby has started the last seven games (posting a .940 Sv%), but Wednesday’s game would have been Michal Neuvirth’s most likely opportunity to start in more than two weeks. Mike Vogel reports Neuvy is ill.
He really played fantastic. He played the way he’s played the last two years. He looks like he’s been there, done that. He’s very calm in the net. He made three or four huge saves (Saturday), was great in the shootout, and after the game you couldn’t tell it was first AHL win. He’s only lost one game in regulation since the end of November. This guy knows how to win.
Olie Kolzig is remembered as the greatest goalie in Capitals history. A staple in Washington’s net for over a decade, Kolzig led the team to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance and became one of the franchise’s most beloved players. These days Kolzig has a different role. In his second year as associate goaltending coach, Kolzig spends his time mentoring the club’s young netminders in both minor leagues. The influence of a veteran has apparently rubbed off on the players– Caps goalie Michal Neuvirthrecently added the German goalie’s likeness to his mask, a gesture Kolzig deeply appreciated.
On Sunday, I spoke on the phone with Olie The Goalie, who was in Hershey scouting the Bears game. As the NHL season approached, Kolzig gave me his thoughts on the Caps goalie duo, the distractions Braden Holtby faced last season, and what he sees next for Alex Ovechkin. He even told me what he thought of Tom Poti‘s return to hockey and what that could mean for the organization.
Over the offseason the Hershey Bears saw several key veterans sign elsewhere, such as future AHL Hall of Famer Keith Aucoin, 2011-12 AHL leading scorer Chris Bourque, and fan-favorite enforcer Joel Rechlicz. The team also had to deal with a peculiar problem due to the lockout: two head coaches, Mark French and new Caps bench boss Adam Oates. Capitals general manager George McPhee mandated that Hershey learn Oates’ new system, so that the organization’s minor league players could be used to it by the time NHL games started being played. All this change has seen the team scuffle to a .500 record through 34 games this season (16-16-1-1).
But now things are starting to look up. Before it was announced that the lockout had been lifted, Hershey had been getting its best goaltending of the year from Braden Holtby, who was recently named AHL player of the month for December. Stan Galiev, who had been struggling with his transition from junior hockey, is starting to look more comfortable on the ice and more worthy of his #29 prospect ranking from Hockey Prospectus. The organization also has a surplus of quality goaltenders in the ECHL knocking at the door of the AHL: Philipp Grubauer and 2012 seventh-round pick Sergey Kostenko.
On Saturday, after the Bears’ 3-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators, I asked French if this is the best he’s seen Braden Holtby play, if the sky is the limit for Riley Barber, and if Caps fans should be worried about Galiev’s early season struggles.
First, during today’s practice, Alex Ovechkin and Michal Neuvirth switched gear with each other. ‘Cause why not. The Great 8– sporting a goalie glove, blocker, and mask– skated to the crease and took several long-range shots from his teammates.
The other big goalie news of the day is that Swedish airbrush artist David Gunnarsson released photos of his latest project: Tomas Vokoun‘s new presidents-themed mask.
As we already wrote, the Caps were well represented in 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship, sporting five prospects in the tournament. Philipp Grubauer played on the weak German team and Patrick Wey had a situational role on the bronze-medal USA squad. The other three Caps prospects played in the finals and each had great success in the tournament. So what did they do in the gold medal game? Here is our look at their best moments.