The Capitals announced that goaltender Philipp Grubauer has been summoned from the AHL Hershey Bears.
Washington made the move because Braden Holtby is battling an illness, according to the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt. It sounds like Holtby hasn’t been ruled out of Game 2 on Friday yet, but Washington is taking precautionary measures.
If Holtby can’t play then it will be interesting to see who coach Barry Trotz starts. Grubauer, 23, is a highly regarded goaltending prospect who has already enjoyed some success at the NHL level, but he doesn’t have any playoff experience. At the age of 28, Justin Peters has more overall experience, but he hasn’t played in a postseason game either. On top of that, Peters struggled in the backup role in 2014-15 with a 3.25 GAA and .881 save percentage in 12 contests.
It’s worth noting that the decision to summon Grubauer at this time likely wasn’t made lightly as Hershey is scheduled to play in its final two regular season games on Friday and Saturday. The Bears’ playoff spot is secure, but they’re still in a close battle for the Northeast Division title.
The Washington Capitals didn’t sit on their hands after missing the playoffs in 2014. They replaced both their general manager and head coach with Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz respectively. They splurged on free agent defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. One thing they didn’t do though was address their goaltending, which was a point of significant uncertainty based on how the 2013-14 campaign played out.
All the same, the Washington Capitals decided to stick with Braden Holtby and only bring in Justin Peters to serve in a supporting role. Their belief in Holtby paid off on Sunday when the Capitals’ netminder turned aside 35 of 36 shots versus Detroit on no rest en route to securing a playoff spot.
“That was an outstanding performance,” Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “Back-to-back in this league against good teams, goalies usually don’t fare very well and he stepped up tonight.”
That wasn’t an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination. Holtby’s been a big part of Washington’s resurgence this season with a 40-19-10 record, 2.24 GAA, and .922 save percentage in an incredible 71 games. He’s the first goaltender since Pekka Rinne in 2011-12 to reach both the 40-win and 70-game marks. Of course, Rinne was also guided by Trotz and goalie coach Mitch Korn. Among goaltenders that played in at least 70 games in a single season, his GAA is the best since Martin Brodeur in 2007-08.
Holtby’s brilliant season has been overshadowed somewhat by Carey Price’s Hart Trophy bid. In fact, in a campaign where Pekka Rinne has been nearly as dominant as Price and Devan Dubnyk swooped in to reverse the Minnesota Wild’s fortunes, Holtby might not even warrant a Vezina Trophy finalist spot. Nevertheless, Washington’s fortunes this season have been tied to Holtby.
So far that’s been to the Capitals’ benefit. They just have to hope that continues to be the case.
“Great season for him and if we’re going to go somewhere great this spring, we’re going to need a great effort from him for sure,” Niskanen said.
It was an early start for Braden Holtby on Saturday, and it looks like his afternoon will be done early, too.
The Washington Capitals’ starter is having a rough afternoon as the Nashville Predators chased him with three goals on 13 shots. Holtby didn’t quite make it through 15 minutes of the first period before giving way to Justin Peters.
The final goal Holtby allowed was a ruthless snipe by Filip Forsberg.