After just over a month of a three-goalie circus that left Michal Neuvirth, Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer all feeling at one time or another as if they would be the Washington Capitals‘ starter, the organization has finally decided on who would leave town. And just as he came in early on in December to start the entire issue, Grubauer was sent down to the Hershey Bears of the AHL to deflate it.
This decision would have been a very controversial one just over a week ago as Grubauer had a 6-2-4 record and seemingly was stopping everything in sight. Additionally, the Capitals were seemingly playing better with the 22-year-old between the pipes as his steady play and youthful exuberance clearly shook things up in the locker room for a little while.
Unfortunately, the last week showed the downside of playing a 22-year-old between the pipes with consistency, especially when you have two starters who have previously proven themselves sitting on the bench. During this seven-day stretch between Jan. 13 and Jan. 20, Grubauer started three of the Capitals’ four games, picking up a 0-2-1 record while recording a 4.03 GAA and a .863 save percentage.
This poor performance led to Grubauer being pulled from the last two games he played in and also gave Capitals head coach Adam Oates a chance to see where Holtby was at both physically and mentally. Clearly Holtby was up to the challenge as he looked to be rid of the mental struggles he had after going through a rough patch on the ice during the month of December.
There is no doubting that having Holtby back from these issues is a very valuable thing to Washington as he was the organization’s starter for much of the last two seasons, and his 36-23-3 record during this time is very impressive. Additionally, as a guy who had a good chance to make the Canada Olympic Roster prior to struggling in December, there is no doubting that he is currently miles ahead of Grubauer in terms of physical advancement. With this in mind it is obvious who Oates and the Capitals’ locker room would likely want between the pipes when the going gets tough during the second half of the season and the playoffs.
Of course this does not mean that Grubauer has no value to the Capitals organization — in fact far from it. As a 22-year-old who picked up a 6-4-2 record with a 2.38 GAA and .926 save percentage in 16 games played this season it is obvious that he has potential to start in the NHL. This potential will be aided by receiving valuable seasoning in Hershey which could help him as soon as the end of this season in Washington, especially given the fact that Neuvirth would surely still like to be traded.