It’s a word that we use constantly. Webster defines the word as “grasping” and “holding” onto something. In today’s modern slang, as well as in sports lingo, it means that you come in hot or show up at an important time. And Washington Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer isn’t a stranger to the definition.
In fact, he is clutch. The Capitals young German netminder sits behind a red-hot Braden Holtby. You could only imagine what it’s like to be the understudy for a netminder who rarely gets cold and is a front-runner for the Vezina trophy. You never get to really play, and you don’t get the opportunity to bask in the spotlight or even prove your worth as a starter in the NHL.
Normally, backups aren’t that good. They’ll only play when needed, and the role is not a sought-after one in hockey. When goalies are called upon as the backup, many of them get upset and realize that they will never be some team’s first-resort or saving grace in their NHL career. Fans won’t buy their jerseys or chant their names. But unlike others, Grubauer makes the most of his time on the ice.
In fact, he had to come in for Holtby after a scary dehydration issue. He let in no shots, and was a strong substitute and lead Washington to yet another win. This didn’t go unrecognized by his team.
“We see the talent that he has and the competitiveness that he has,” forward Justin Williams said. “To come in halfway through a game that you don’t think you’re playing in back-to-back days shows that he’s ready, mentally ready.”
That’s a prize to have in a goaltender, especially one that goes days without playing. And Grubauer realizes that he is Holtby’s backup, but that doesn’t make him competitive or eager to steal the spot away. In fact, he cares much for his superior netminder, as well as his team. He has one intention: to help his team and lead them to a win.
Even his teammates cannot believe that he can jump of the bench immediately, for some unknown reason, and play.
“I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have to do that, just sitting on the bench and then all of a sudden you get thrown into a game like that when you’re playing a top team like the Rangers,” defenseman Taylor Chorney said. “It’s unbelievable. He came in, made huge stops and was a big part of the win.”
He may not be the Capitals’ starter, but when they need him, he gives a first-star performance almost every time.