There is something amiss within the Washington Capitals’ group of top-six forwards, and back-up goalie Philipp Grubauer paid the price last night in Buffalo – and in his three other spells between the pipes.
By Glynn Cosker
DCpuckDrop Managing Editor
Poor Washington goalie Philipp Grubauer is likely a little miffed today. After making 29 saves – some of which were quite spectacular – Grubauer’s record as the Capitals’ back-up netminder this season now stands at 0-4-1. All four of his regulation losses occurred in the second game of Washington’s back-to-back outings – including the 3-1 loss last night to the Buffalo Sabres.
Grubauer Not At Fault
“We all feel terrible for [Grubauer],” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom told reporters. “He’s been playing awesome in the games he’s been in. We wanted to give him a win, but unfortunately that wasn’t tonight. But we will give him one because he deserves it, he deserves better.” Backstrom is right; and Grubauer deserves a team that shows up ready to perform on any given day in the NHL. Other teams are more than able to so, and why the Capitals cannot do it remains a mystery. Perhaps it’s time to replace the team’s Gatorade with Red Bull?
The truth is that all of Washington’s games played with less than 24 hours of rest and relaxation have resulted in ugly losses, i.e., the 8-2 defeat to the Flyers on Oct. 14; the 4-1 loss to the Panthers on Oct. 21; the 2-1 loss to the Flames on Oct. 29; and last night’s 3-1 defeat to the Sabres. It’s safe to say that Grubauer was responsible for one (maybe two) of the 17 goals allowed in those four back-to-back games.
Nicklas Backstrom is coming up on 9 straight games without a goal..
TJ Oshie coming up on 8 straight games without a goal..
— Rob Carlin (@RobCarlinNBCS) November 8, 2017
Goals Aren’t Flowing From The Capitals’ Top Six
The tweet above from NBC Sports Washington anchor Rob Carlin says it all; no goals in the last eight games from either Backstrom or his line-mate T.J. Oshie. Further, during that time-span, here is the goal count from the Capitals’ top-six forwards: Alex Ovechkin – 3; Evgeny Kuznetsov – 3; Devante Smith-Pelly – 2; Jakub Vrana -1; Backstrom – 0; and Oshie – 0. So, that’s nine goals in the last eight games from Washington’s top lines. The other 13 goals over that period came from the third and fourth lines – and defensemen.
In short, Washington would have easily lost eight straight without other players stepping up – especially its third line which has lately featured Lars Eller, Tom Wilson and Chandler Stephenson.
If the goals aren’t flowing when there is plenty of respite between games, Grubauer was probably dreading getting the call-up for his games, but team-mate Tom Wilson had an explanation.
Tom Wilson: Team Was ‘Kind Of Tired’ – Had To Wake Up ‘A Little Bit’
“It kind of took them scoring on us to kind of wake us up a little bit. You can’t have that in a back-to-back,” stated Capitals enforcer Wilson “Sometimes it’s tough, you get in late last night, you’re kind of tired, and you get out there and you’ve got to make sure you’re going off the get-go or you can get behind.” Interestingly, Wilson wasn’t too tired to engage in a major fight in the second period last night in Buffalo. Although, why he had to fight after a squeaky clean check (that wasn’t a penalty) was a mystery to all the Caps, including Wilson himself.
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) November 8, 2017
Wilson’s assertion that ‘it kind of took them scoring on us to wake us up’ likely didn’t sit well with Grubauer – who was seemingly wide awake for his part of the contest and stopped all 15 shots that he faced in the first period – while the Caps managed only four shots on Buffalo in the first. Perhaps also adding to Grubauer’s frustration was the Capitals’ inability to stay out of the penalty box. Grubauer didn’t allow a goal on any of the Sabres’ four power play opportunities, though, which is testament to how well he plays and how the rest of his team needs to apologize to him, look inward, regroup and start producing the goods.
The Capitals’ next back-to-back game series is later this month when they face Tampa Bay at home on Nov. 24 and then a game in Toronto the next day. Expect Braden Holtby to start the Toronto game. And, for the love of the game, Washington must start Grubauer in at least one of the Capitals’ seven games between now and that Toronto game. The team owes him that much, and Grubauer is owed a game in which his forwards aren’t “kind of tired” or need to “wake up” a little bit.