International Ice Hockey Federation

Good times for Grubauer

Good times for Grubauer

German goalie stepping up with Washington

Published 25.04.2017 15:10 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Good times for Grubauer
Philipp Grubauer gets the player of the game award from goalie legend Vladislav Tretiak during the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Goalie Philipp Grubauer of the Washington Capitals is all about quality time. In just 11 games this season, the 25-year-old has eight wins and two shutouts.

It’s not easy to pile up wins when you’re backing up workhorse Braden Holtby, who played 66 games en route to his first Vezina Trophy last year. Grubauer appeared in a career-high 22 games in 2015/16, amassing eight victories, nine losses, and one overtime loss with a 2.32 GAA and 91.8 save percentage. This year is shaping up to be an improvement.

“I think last year I didn’t get the results I wanted,” said Grubauer. “I’d maybe play a good game, but not get the win. So it’s nice to start off the right way this year.”

The fifth-year NHLer’s strong play is partially attributable to the confidence and conditioning he got from taking part in the Olympic qualification tournament in Riga, Latvia and the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, Canada in September.

Grubauer shone with back-to-back shutouts over Japan (5-0) and Austria (6-0) before beating the host Latvians (3-2) to book Germany’s ticket to the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea. Then he was a late addition to Team Europe’s roster at the World Cup, replacing injured Dane Fredrik Andersen. Even though neither Grubauer nor fellow German Thomas Greiss got to play, with Slovakia’s Jaroslav Halak starting every game, it was still rewarding to face top NHL forwards like Slovenia’s Anze Kopitar and Norway’s Mats Zuccarello in practice as Team Europe made the final.

“Being part of the Olympics, it’s huge for Germany,” said Grubauer. “And coming back to training camp after the Olympic qualification and the World Cup of Hockey, you’re almost in mid-season form. At the World Cup, you had the best players in the world. The speed, I felt, was a little bit faster than it is here. So you had to really fight and battle. It really helped coming back to Washington.”

The Capitals aspire to win their first Stanley Cup ever this season. Armed with elite talents like captain Alexander Ovechkin, Yevgeni Kuznetsov, and Nicklas Backstrom, they had high hopes last year after marching to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top regular-season team. But after the disappointment of losing to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins in Round Two, they feel they’ve learned lessons that will help them claim the NHL’s top prize this June.

Otherwise, there’s another dream for Grubauer to chase: medalling on home ice at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, co-hosted by Cologne, Germany and Paris, France. If the Rosenheim native is available, he’ll be welcomed with open arms by German national team coach Marco Sturm.

Sturm, 38, is a legend as the highest-scoring German in NHL history (487 points in 938 games). In his official debut as national coach, he led Germany to a seventh-place finish at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Russia. His positive, knowledgeable approach might even yield a better result than in 2010, the last time the Worlds climaxed in Cologne. That year, Uwe Krupp coached Germany to fourth place.

“He’s been awesome,” said Grubauer of Sturm. “Sturmie and Geoff Ward, who was our assistant coach from New Jersey, those two guys have done a pretty good job. Sturmie played for so many years in the NHL. It’s really nice to have him as the coach. He really knows the game well. He gives a lot back to the players on the ice.”

Grubauer’s biggest championship so far in his career was backstopping the Taylor Hall-led Windsor Spitfires of the OHL to the 2010 Memorial Cup, emblematic of Canadian junior hockey supremacy. Since then, the Capitals’ fourth-round pick in 2010 (112th overall) has come a long way. As recently as 2012/13, he was playing for the ECHL’s Reading Royals.

Now he’s carved out a niche for himself in America’s capital city. And he also has great things to say about Cologne, the largest city in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

“It’s really one of the better German cities to play in,” Grubauer said. “You have the biggest rink and they sell out every time. In 2010 they did a really good job. It’s nice to have the World Championship again back home. I’m looking forward to the playoffs with Washington, but if I have to go to Cologne, I’m going to go.”


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