Capitals

Quick Links

The goalie saga in Pittsburgh shows why trading Grubauer may not be such a good idea

usatsi_10397342.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

The goalie saga in Pittsburgh shows why trading Grubauer may not be such a good idea

Throughout the summer and the season, it has been assumed by many that the Caps hold a rather large trade chip in goalie Philipp Grubauer.

Washington has a Vezina-caliber starter in Braden Holtby who, at 28, is still in his prime. The team also has a future starter in Ilya Samsonov who is considered one of the best goaltending prospects in the world.

At 26, Grubauer wants to be a starting goalie somewhere and given his impressive 2016-17 campaign, he certainly looks like he is ready to take that step. Starting goaltending can be hard to find so it would not be surprising to see a team in need jump at the chance to trade for a budding starter.

But the Pittsburgh Penguins may make the Caps think twice about shopping Grubauer.

RELATED: LISTEN TO THE LATEST EPISODE OF THE CAPITALS FACEOFF PODCAST

While staring goalies can be hard to find, the situation in Pittsburgh may have taught teams another important lesson: consistent backup goaltending can also be hard to find and it may prove just as critical to a team’s success.

Matt Murray was drafted by the Penguins in 2012 and groomed to become the future starter behind Marc-Andre Fleury. In 2015-16, he played in 13 regular season games as the backup. When Fleury suffered a concussion on April 2 just before the playoffs, Murray was forced to take over as the starter that postseason. It was not an ideal situation, but it worked out for Pittsburgh as Murray started 21 games and led the team to a Stanley Cup.

Last season, the Penguins utilized both Fleury and Murray as a goalie tandem with Fleury getting 34 starts and Murray getting 47. This time, it was Murray who went down with an injury while warming up for Game 1 of the first round. Fleury started 15 games that postseason until Murray was able to return and helped guide the Penguins through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Where would the Penguins have been without their goalie tandem? Probably not hoisting the Stanley Cup in either season.

But the issue with Pittsburgh’s story is the fact that having two goalies of Fleury and Murray’s caliber on the roster is a luxury few teams can afford. Washington entered the 2017-18 season with a much thinner roster than in years past due to salary cap constraints. While keeping Grubauer would be ideal, it seems clear with Holtby and Samsonov in tow that his future as a starter will be somewhere other than in Washington. Surely that makes his value to the team higher as a trade asset, right?

Perhaps…if the Penguins did not recently provide yet another example of why having a backup like Grubauer is important.

Pittsburgh lost Fleury to the Vegas Golden Knights over the summer in the expansion draft. As the full-time starter, Murray’s numbers this season have been the worst of his career (2.95 GAA, .906 save percentage). The Penguins also struggled initially to find a backup for him. Antti Niemi did not even last a month into the season before he was placed on waivers. Pittsburgh seems to have settled on Tristan Jarry for now, but the team’s goaltending situation is in flux with Murray is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury.

MORE CAPITALS: WITH THE CAPS GETTING HEALTHY, THE PLAYERS ONCE AGAIN FIND THEMSELVES COMPETING FOR ROSTER SPOTS

Murray is considered week-to-week so it is not as if his season is over, but the Penguins’ goalie saga does provide a cautionary tale.

Where would the Caps be if, hypothetically, the team traded Grubauer and Holtby suffered an injury?

Granted, that possibility was always there. It is not as if Murray is the first starting goalie to ever suffer an injury, but seeing something happen can often resonate more than just knowing that it could.

For all those armchair GMs trying to figure out possible trade partners for Grubauer, you may want to think twice. Seeing the situation that is unfolding in Pittsburgh is a stark reminder of the dangers of relying so much on just one goalie.

Quick Links

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."

RELATED LINKS: 

Quick Links

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE