Philipp Grubauer

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Who will start for Caps in net for Game 3? Barry Trotz knows, but he's not ready to say yet

Who will start for Caps in net for Game 3? Barry Trotz knows, but he's not ready to say yet

Braden Holtby started the third period of Game 2 on Sunday after Philipp Grubauer allowed four goals to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now the question is whether Barry Trotz will stick with Holtby for the start of Game 3 or go back to Grubauer.

When asked after Game 2 if Holtby would start the next game, Trotz declined the answer. In a conference call with the media on Monday, Trotz said he had decided who would start Game 3, but was not ready to reveal it to the media until he talked with the goalies.

Grubauer was critical of his own performance in Game 2, especially for letting in an innocent looking wrister from Zach Werenski at the blue line.

“I don’t think I played that good," Grubauer said. "The last one was on me."


Trotz was not critical of Grubauer following the game, but he did lament that the team was not able to get a big save when it needed it from the German netminder.

"We just needed that one save, and we weren't able to get it," Trotz said. "Grubi's been fantastic for us — this is not on our goaltending, this is on the whole group, everybody. We win and lose as a group, and we've got to go forward. I put [Holtby] in there, and we'll see where we go from there."

Trotz reiterated Monday that he still has confidence in both netminders, but with a Vezina trophy winning goalie on the bench, it is certainly fair to wonder if Trotz will make the switch for Game 3.

Holtby saved seven of the eight shots he faced after coming in for Grubauer in Game 2. For the majority of the season, he was the Caps' unquestioned starter, but a significant slump in February and March opened the door for Grubauer to take the starting job for the playoffs.

Now with the team in need of a spark, Trotz very well could turn to Holtby in the hopes he can outduel Sergei Bobrovsky and keep the Caps' playoff hopes alive.


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Philipp Grubauer remains the starter for Game 2

Philipp Grubauer remains the starter for Game 2

The Caps are sticking with goalie Philipp Grubauer for Game 2, Coach Barry Trotz announced following Saturday's practice.

Grubauer allowed four goals on 27 shots in Washington’s 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus Thursday. Afterward Trotz said he needed to “reevaluate” the goals that were permitted and talk things over with his assistants before naming a starter for Sunday’s pivotal game on home ice.

“I thought he was fine,” Trotz said following an hour-long session at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “There was nothing in that game that you’d say, ‘why [don’t] you make a change?’”


Two of the three goals Grubauer allowed in regulation were scored on the power play. And Artemi Panarin’s overtime winner? That was a world-class shot by a world-class sniper.  

“Going into overtime, you’re a shot or a breakaway away,” Trotz said. “All that being said, it was a special play by Panarin. There’s very few people who can make that shot. And he made that shot.”

It was a difficult defeat for a team that was desperate to get off to a strong start in its own building. But this ‘L’ wasn’t about goaltending. It was about taking pointless penalties at the wrong time—and the Blue Jackets taking advantage of those avoidable miscues.

In fact, one could argue that Grubauer was the Caps' best player in the second period as Panarin and Co. peppered him with high-quality scoring opportunities.


As much of a gut-punch as the loss was, however, Grubauer said he and his teammates must turn the page. And quickly.

“You've got to be able to do that because nobody's walking through to the Stanley Cup with no losses,” he said. “You lose one and you learn from that and maybe you guys realize, ‘OK we've got to do something different.’”

Grubauer added: “It's not as easy as it is in the regular season. It basically is like an overtime game in the regular season for 60 minutes. That's what it is. When you lose a game—you want to win the game—but you've got to learn from it and you've got to take some positives out. In order to be better, you need to see the negatives and you need to make mistakes and hopefully get better and learn from it.”

Sure, Grubi's .852 save percentage in Game 1 sounds ugly. But there were mitigating circumstances on each of the goals. And, based on Trotz’s comments, it doesn’t sound like there was a whole lot of hand-wringing as the coaches reviewed the tape and mulled whether to go back to Grubauer or make a change and start Braden Holtby.

“I’m going to go back with Grubi,” Trotz said flatly. “I have a lot of confidence in him.”

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Barry Trotz does not commit to Philipp Grubauer as the starter for Game 2

Barry Trotz does not commit to Philipp Grubauer as the starter for Game 2

Philipp Grubauer's play down the stretch of the regular season earned him the start in Game 1 of the Capitals' playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It remains to be seen, however, if his play earned the start in Game 2.

Grubauer gave up four goals on 27 shots in the Capitals' 4-3 overtime loss in Game 1 on Thursday. Following the loss, head coach Barry Trotz would not commit to Grubauer as the starter for Sunday's Game 2.

"Philipp's body of work was good," Trotz said.


"I thought he was fine. We'll sit down, we'll reevaluate all the goals, we'll reevaluate our team and where we're at and we'll go from there."

Grubauer started the season as the backup behind Braden Holtby, but outplayed the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner in the final weeks of the season to earn the Game 1 start.

Trotz's answer appears to at least leave the door open for a possible goalie change in Game 2.

Prior to Thursday's game, Holtby had started in all but one of the Capitals' playoff games since 2012 and currently boasts the second-best playoff save percentage (.931) in NHL history.

Game 2 takes place at Capital One Arena on Sunday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m. and can be watched on NBC Sports Washington.