Capitals backup goalie Philipp Grubauer will get the nod Tuesday against the Avalanche, despite the fact that it’s Braden Holtby Night at Verizon Center.
A little weird? Perhaps. But Coach Barry Trotz said it was an easy decision to make.
“I didn’t toss and turn about it,” Trotz said, asked about the timing. “I asked some of the coaches and [goaltending coach] Mitch [Korn] and all that. …I think what we have to do is what’s best for our hockey team—and this is a game that we said Grubauer would get.”
So Grubauer will make his first start of the season against a surging Avalanche team that’s opened the season with wins over the powerful Stars and defending champion Penguins. Holtby, meantime, will get to sit back and enjoy his day, which features a pre-game ceremony saluting his record-breaking 2015-16 season. He’ll also receive a gift from the organization.
“It’s well deserved,” Trotz said. “Holts, obviously, his body of work last year was phenomenal, record-setting, Vezina Trophy. He did it all last year. He can bask in it today a little bit and we’ll put him right back to work in Florida and the Rangers, for sure.”
As for Grubauer, he’s excited to get some work so early in the season. He also acknowledged the fact that he’ll likely start more than 16 games he got a year ago due to the schedule.
“Of course,” Grubauer said. “The schedule is a little bit more compressed this year so everything is more packed together, a couple of more back-to-backs, I think. So it’s nice to get a couple of more games maybe this year.”
“I know Holts wants to play every game,” he added. “I want to play every game. But it’s a long-term thing. We’re trying to win the Stanley Cup here, [so] it doesn’t help us if somebody is tired or gassed…You want to find a happy medium [between] playing the right amount of games and not getting out of a groove.”
“I’m happy with [playing more]. Last year was a little bit tougher. You get one game and you basically wait three, three-and-a-half weeks to get another game. So it’s a little bit nicer to get into a rhythm right away.”
Grubauer helped Germany clinch a spot in the 2018 Winter Games in early September but he did not get into a game for Team Europe at the World Cup. He was also limited to just a game-and-a-half in the preseason.
“I just felt like [a] nonconference [game], early, get him in,” Trotz said. “I just felt that the timing was right. I know I could go with Holts with the games spread out a little bit, but I don’t think it’s fair to Gruby. We’re going to need him this year and down the stretch. He needs to play.”
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