Ask Philipp Grubauer how he approaches any given scenario, whether making his second NHL start at one of the most famous arenas in the world, jumping into a game the Capitals trailed by three in relief or facing his first NHL shootout, and the answer is simple.
“It’s like every other game,” Grubauer says. “Once the puck drops, it’s business.”
Grubauer, 22, the latest prospect in Washington’s goaltending pipeline has been making the most of his longest stint with the Capitals to date. He finished with 30 saves in a 4-1 win over the Rangers in New York on Dec. 8 and then stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced in relief to support Washington’s comeback effort en route to a 6-5 shootout win against the Lightning on Dec. 10.
Goaltending coach Olie Kolzig wasn’t surprised to see Grubauer perform well. He’s worked with Grubauer at all three levels of professional hockey in North America and sees some similarities between himself and the 2010 fourth-round pick especially when it comes to his preparation.
Unlike Braden Holtby who has his elaborate routine of visualizations and Holtbyisms or Michal Neuvirth’s rigorous stretching program, Grubauer has a more mellow pregame approach.
“Philipp is more like me where you thought about the game, but others didn’t realize that you were actually playing a game,” Kolzig said. “It was funny, [assistant coach Calle Johansson] and I joked before the Ranger game you couldn’t tell that he was playing. He was very laid back, wanted to know about the power play, certain other things, was inquisitive and went about his preparation. Once he hit the ice that’s where he really focused and dialed in.”
That composure both on the ice and off has helped put the rest of the Capitals at ease with Grubuaer. They saw how well he handled challenging situations twice in a matter of three days and realized that while he might be relatively unfamiliar to them, he could hold his own.
“The New York game gave us a ton of confidence,” Troy Brouwer said. “Whenever you get new goalies in tough environments like that you’re always going to be a little bit tentative, a little bit nervous to see how he handles it. But he’s been unbelievable for us so far and I think the coaches are going to have some tough decisions in the games going forward here.”