At the start of February in 2015, the Caps had 33 games remaining in their regular season schedule. Braden Holtby ended up playing in 30 of those games. His workload won't be quite as heavy this year.
With the Caps locked in a tight race in the standings and backup justin Peters struggling (.881 save percentage in 2014-15), Holty was called upon to carry the team on his shoulders out of sheer necessity. Holtby may be a goalie who likes to play as often as possible, but starting 72 games as he did in that season is hardly what anyone would call an ideal situation.
This season, however, he won't have to.
In his first full season at the NHL level, goaltender Philipp Grubauer seems to be growing into his new role behind Holtby.
"First half was a little bit different for me to adjust," Grubauer said. "Obviously I don't play as much as I used to in the last years, but now I got some quality time with [goalie coach Mitch Korn]. ... It's a little bit tougher if you don't play every game, you don't start to get in a groove and it's just getting used to be ready on the bench. That's what I'm trying to do."
In 11 games this season, Grubauer has registered a .925 save percentage with a 2.12 GAA and has become a backup the team knows it can rely on. That will mean more opportunities for the Rosenheim, Germany native down the stretch.
"Depending on our schedule, there's a good chance he could get probably 25 percent of the games," head coach Barry Trotz said. That would translate into eight or nine games for Grubauer in the next 10 weeks and somewhere around 20 for the season. That number will start on Tuesday as Grubauer will get the start over Holtby against the Florida Panthers.
Though Holtby did not seem to suffer any ill effects in the playoffs in 2015, a few more nights off for Holtby couldn't hurt.
"Holts can't play every game," Grubauer said. "He wants to, but he can't so you've got to make sure I help out here."
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