With his 38-save shutout in Washington’s 5-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, Grubauer is now 10-3-2 in 13 games started. After he got the first shutout of his NHL career in the first game he started this season, he now has three for the year with a .931 save percentage and a 1.98 goals-against average.
“He has been good all year,” forward Lars Eller said. “But [on Sunday], he was terrific. 5-0 maybe doesn’t really tell the true story of this game because they had a lot of shots and a lot of looks. He played terrific.”
“To have two goalies like that, that’s a luxury,” forward Marcus Johansson said.
Many around the NHL have bemoaned the league’s especially compressed schedule this season, a result of the World Cup of Hockey in the preseason and a new five-day bye week for each team. But Grubauer has benefited from it, starting more games this season with shorter breaks in between them. The more consistent playing time coupled with a second year under goaltending coach Mitch Korn’s tutelage has helped Grubauer have a sharp campaign.
“Obviously you get into a little bit of a rhythm here,” Grubauer said after Sunday’s game. “You don’t have to wait two or three weeks to get a chance. It helps winning because if you lose it’s going to stick with you for a week or two weeks. If I lose I don’t want to be seen, I don’t want to be seen around the rink. It’s just embarrassing. But we got a win and we did a good job.”
He hasn’t had to feel embarrassed often. It took two weeks for Grubauer to get his first start last season, his first in a fulltime role as Braden Holtby’s backup. Recognizing that wasn’t fair to Grubauer, the Capitals started him in the third game this season, and Grubauer had an 18-save shutout against the Colorado Avalanche. Since then, the longest he’s gone between starts is 14 days — and that included the league’s three-day holiday break.
That Grubauer is playing more may also be a benefit to Holtby, the lessened workload potentially keeping him fresh for what the Capitals hope will be a long postseason. Through the Capitals’ first 53 games last season, Holtby had four more starts than he does now, and he’s on pace for his fewest number of starts under Coach Barry Trotz. Washington has six sets of back-to-backs left, so with Grubauer and Holtby typically splitting those, that would give Grubauer at least six more starts.
“That was the main thing for me coming into this year being more consistent and helping the team out every night I play,” Grubauer said. “I don’t know when I get to play the next time, so I want to make sure it’s the right way and I’m winning the games. It’s a winning business so you’ve got to win and you’ve got to have your stats right.”