2015-16 marked Philipp Grubauer’s first season as a bona fide NHL goaltender. Last season, Grubauer played almost exclusively in the AHL, appearing in just one game for the Caps. Yet, his strong performance in both leagues, coupled with Justin Peters’ unsatisfactory play, set the stage for Grubauer to play second fiddle to Holtby. (This is a good thing.)
|.923||save percentage, all situations|
|2.32||goals against average|
|.923||save percentage during 5v5|
|.970||low-danger save percentage during 5v5|
|.913||medium-danger save percentage during 5v5|
|.857||high-danger save percentage during 5v5|
This season, Grubauer’s role was clear: play backup to one of the most talented goaltenders in the NHL on a Stanley Cup-contending team. A daunting task? Sure, but Grubi tackled it admirably. He appeared in 22 games, often as a starter and sometimes in relief of Holtby. He posted a .922 adjusted save percentage at 5v5 and a .923 save percentage in all situations.
These are good numbers, but with only 22 games under his belt, are there any noteworthy conclusions we can draw from Grubauer’s 2015-16 season?
The short answer is as follows: Not really. Grubauer did just what was expected of him — he performed decently in a limited role. However, this is a season review, after all, so our time is probably better spent analyzing how Grubauer performed in said limited role relative to other goaltenders in similar situations. (The alternative is trying to predict if Grubauer is on course to become an NHL regular in some way, shape, or form, but that’s a question for a day when I’ve had eight hours of sleep and a faster Internet connection.)
With that being said, I anticipate Grubauer will do a solid job backing up Holtby until Grubauer’s contract expires, or he’s traded — whichever comes first. His play over the next two seasons will likely indicate the level of play we can expect from him in seasons to come. But let’s shift our focus back to the present.
As is the case with all things goalie, analyzing Grubauer’s numbers presents a challenge. How so? For starters, Grubi saw limited action, even for a backup. Given Holtby’s outstanding play and penchant for freakishly tough workloads, there was rarely a need for Barry Trotz and his staff to play Grubauer over Holtby.
With 1,111 minutes (make a wish!) played in 22 games, Grubi is in the company of backups like Keith Kinkaid (New Jersey), Andrew Hammond (Ottawa), and Robin Lehner (Buffalo). I’m going to compare him to his “peers” (essentially, goalies who didn’t receive many starts.) Let it be noted that “many starts” is excruciatingly vague, and determining a numerical cutoff was a bit tricky. After some consideration (shoutout to CFTC for his input), I’m stacking Grubauer against goalies who played between 20 and 25 games–looked at differently, goalies whose partners started between 57 to 62 games.
Why am I implementing this cutoff? It’s obvious that comparing Grubauer to an AHL call-up who played less than 60 minutes in the entire season is a pointless exercise. So, let’s add some constraints when examining Grubi’s numbers. Where to begin? I could compare Grubauer only to goaltenders who have played a minimum of 1,000 minutes. This knocks out third- and fourth-string goaltenders and accounts for Grubauer’s aforementioned peers (Kinkaid, Hammond, etc.)
However, it pits Grubi against established starters like Cam Ward and Ryan Miller, as well as elite goalies like Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. Merely acknowledging that Grubauer’s 5v5 save percentage is lower than Lundqvist’s doesn’t tell us much. Furthermore, it’s important to consider what exactly the Caps wanted Grubauer to do this season. He wasn’t asked to bear a heavy workload on a team searching for its starter, nor did he duke it out with Holtby for the starting job. Additionally, the Caps aren’t a team that relies on goaltending to hide its flaws, and they haven’t been for a looooong time.
With the above in mind, Grubauer’s goalie comparables have been whittled down to a group of 11. Among this group, Grubauer faced the second-fewest shots per 60 minutes. Yet, his medium-danger save percentage ranked last. However, his high-danger save percentage ranked second, and his 5v5 save percentage came in at sixth.
What does this tell us?
The Caps have no need to preemptively accelerate Grubauer’s development. With Holtby as the franchise goalie, there’s no immediate need to groom Grubauer for the starting job. But so long as men can breathe and eyes can see, Holtby won’t be playing 82 games. This is where Grubauer comes in. Next season, he might see his share of starts increase in the hopes that a string of solid performances will ramp up his trade value.
Grubauer’s performance this season shows that, at present, he is a very capable backup goaltender. We’ve seen his promise before during the 2013-14 season, when he stood strong in 17 games played.
We didn’t have a ton of Grubi coverage this season, but let’s do talk about masks.
Okay, that’s it!
Do you see Grubauer being given a larger role next season? And given the current goaltending situation in Hershey, do you foresee him being traded anytime soon?
Before you answer either of those questions, consider this: Grubi’s one of the few German players in the NHL, so that counts for something, right? Fantastisch.
Read more: Japers Rink
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