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Philipp Grubauer named Capitals starter for Game 1 against Columbus Blue Jackets

Philipp Grubauer named Capitals starter for Game 1 against Columbus Blue Jackets

Philipp Grubauer will start Game 1 of the Capitals' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The German netminder told the media Tuesday after practice that Barry Trotz is giving him the start in Game 1 over incumbent Braden Holtby.

"It's a privilege to start for sure, but it's just like any other game," Grubauer said. "We treat it as Game 1 or Game 82. It's not going to change any of my approach."


Grubauer supplants Holtby, a Vezina Trophy finalist in each of the past two seasons and the winner of the award in 2016.

"Trust me, it wasn't an easy decision," Barry Trotz said. "I put a lot of factors in. Braden's been the guy for a long time. His body of work, especially since I've been here, I talked to him yesterday and said to him that weighed heavily on me because he's done so much for us."

The starting role for Washington became an issue when Holtby began to struggle in the latter half of the season. Holtby was pulled four times in 11 starts from Feb. 2 to March 6. During that stretch, he managed a 4.32 GAA and .878 save percentage.

Grubauer took the opportunity to start and ran with it. In fact, Grubauer has statistically been the best goalie in the NHL since Thanksgiving with a 1.93 GAA and .937 save percentage. Both numbers were the best in the NHL during that stretch among goalie who played in 25 games or more.

Grubauer set career highs in both games played (35) and starts (28) this season which he said has helped prepare him for the playoff run.

"It helps playing more and more," he said. "The more you get on the ice, the more experience you get there. If you sit on the bench, you're not going to get good from watching."


This will mark the first time since 2011 a goalie other than Holtby wil be the Captials' starter heading into the postseason.

But that does not mean Holtby will not see any action this postseason.

Trotz stressed that Grubauer had only been declared the starter for Game 1.

"Game 1," Trotz  "We're going to go game by game."

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Burakovsky will miss the first round, but Caps won't rule him out for remainder of the playoffs


Burakovsky will miss the first round, but Caps won't rule him out for remainder of the playoffs

Andre Burakovsky will be sidelined for the remainder of Washington's first-round series vs. Columbus, but he isn’t necessarily out for the remainder of the playoffs, Coach Barry Trotz said on Friday.

Burakovsky suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury in the Capitals' Game 2 overtime loss and has not been on the ice since.

Trotz said the 23-year-old top-six winger needs “minor” surgery.

That procedure, however, will not preclude Burakovsky from returning to the Caps’ lineup in subsequent rounds, should Washington advance.

“That's why I said minor surgery,” Trotz added, asked if Burky might return at a later date.

This latest surgery is the second for Burakovsky this season. In late October, he had a procedure to repair a broken left thumb and missed the next 20 games.

Since his departure in Game 2, Jakub Vrana and Chandler Stephenson have taken turns replacing Burakovsky on the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie.


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Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

There's a saying in sports that goes, "A series doesn't start until a team loses at home." For the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, their series won't start until someone wins at home.

Four games into the series, the road team has won every game. Columbus took Game 1 and Game 2 from Capital One Arena and the Caps answered back by winning Game 3 and Game 4 in Ohio.

"We came [to Columbus] to try to get the first one," Barry Trotz said after Thursday's win. "Did that. We came here to get the second one. Did that. All we've done is just got on even terms."

Now the series is a best of three with two of those final three games in Washington, but how much of an advantage does that really give the Caps?

"We've got to make sure that we're ready to go," Trotz said. "I think we have been since we got here. We've just got to do it at home."

The various playoff struggles the Caps have suffered in the Alex Ovechkin era have been well-documented to this point. One particularly maddening issue is the team's struggles to win at home. Since 2008, the first year the Ovechkin-led Caps made the playoffs, the team is just 28-25 in home playoff games. Since 2015, Trotz's first season as head coach, the Caps are 12-10 in Washington.

Part of that is just the nature of hockey. Upsets are prevalent in the playoffs in the NHL and home-ice advantage does not mean as much as it does in other sports. But it should mean more than 28-25.

Besides having the crowd on your side, home ice also provides matchup advantages. The home team gets the second line change at home, meaning during a stoppage in play the home coach gets the opportunity to see who the opponent puts on the ice before making his own change. For the Caps, this means getting Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against Artemi Panarin.

Trotz has matched his top shutdown pair against Columbus' top line all series long. According to Natural Stat Trick, when Niskanen was on the ice in Game 4 he held Panarin's Corsi For percentage to 36.36. When Niskanen was not on the ice, Panarin's percentage shot up to 71.43. 

Theoretically, it should be much easier for Trotz to get those favorable matchups at home. Now all the Caps have to do is take advantage.

"Our home record hasn't been really great in the last little stretch at the end of the season here and obviously the first two games of the playoffs," Trotz said. "We owe it to our fans, we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of that."