Philipp Grubauer was a huge part of the Capitals’ 2017-18 regular season, and started the first two playoff games of their successful Stanley Cup run. Friday night, he faces them as an opponent for the first time.
“DC has been home for the last couple years and I have played with those guys for so long,” Grubauer said. “It’s going to be obviously weird the first couple minutes, in warmups too, looking down and seeing the jerseys… But once the puck drops, it’s all about business.”
Grubauer, longing for an opportunity as a starter elsewhere, was traded on the day of the NHL Entry Draft. With the Caps needing to clear cap space to re-sign John Carlson, Grubauer and Brooks Orpik were sent to the Colorado Avalanche for a second-round pick. Orpik was later bought out and re-signed by the Capitals.
Now, Grubauer’s fighting for ice time with another former Capitals goalie, Semyon Varlomov. The game against the Caps will be Grubauer’s sixth start this season, compared to Varlomov’s thirteen. In that relatively small sample, Grubauer has recorded a .893 save percentage and a 3.55 goals against average.
Grubauer says he hasn’t asked Varlamov for tips about facing off against the Caps as an opponent for the first time. “I mean, I’ve seen them in practice for the last eight years. I kinda know what they do.” He expects Alex Ovechkin to go low blocker, but “it doesn’t mean you can rely on that.”
Practicing with the Capitals didn’t just give Grubauer insider information about what their tendencies are in front of the net. It was helpful because he “got to be with the best, and practice with the best, and play with the best.” Now, he’ll play against the best.
Unlike other ex-Capitals Alex Chiasson and Jay Beagle, Grubauer won’t be receiving his Stanley Cup ring today. He flew back to Washington to participate in the ring ceremony. According to Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post, his former teammates chanted his name. Grubauer said “the ceremony itself was really, really special.”
While Grubauer is definitely getting the nod for the Avs, the goaltending situation on the other side of the ice is unclear. The Capitals’ usual number one was sidelined unexpectedly Wednesday night against the Jets, and University of Manitoba hockey coach Gavin McHale got to live out his dream when he was signed as an emergency goaltender.
If Holtby is still out with an upper-body injury, Ilya Samsonov, who reportedly flew to Denver, may serve as backup. Copley is likely to earn his third straight start.
Regardless of which Capitals tandem ends up taking the ice, the fact that they’re going up against Varlamov and Grubauer means that all four goaltenders who dress Friday night got their start in the Capitals’ organization.
All 4 goalies that are expected to be dressed for this game (Grubauer, Varly, Copley, and Holtby/Samsonov) we’re drafted and seasoned by the Caps. https://t.co/2faYX82kwK
— REIGNING, DEFENDING, UNDISPUTED STANLEY CUP CHAMPS (@TedCaps) November 15, 2018
Grubauer and Holtby have gotten to live out the dream of lifting the Cup with the Capitals team that drafted them. Now, Grubauer wants to lift it with Varlamov and the Avs. He keeps his Stanley Cup ring in a safe, a reminder of what they’re trying to achieve.
“We have the same goal here, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish,” Grubauer said. “What I learned in Washington, I try to bring into here.”
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