NHL Playoffs 2018: Philipp Grubauer gets nod to start Game 1 in net for Capitals

Capitals' coach Barry Trotz has been playing it pretty close to the chest regarding his his Game 1 starting netminder against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but it appears we finally have an answer. According to the Associated Press's Stephen Whyno, Philipp Grubauer will be starting Game 1 for Washington over Braden Holtby.

Grubauer played 35 games for the Capitals over the course of the regular season, starting 28 of them. He finished 15-10-3 in his starts, posting a .923 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average. Grubauer's starts throughout the regular season came sporadically, but he did see three straight starts at the end of March and 10 of the final 16 starts of the season. In that span, Grubauer was 7-3, ending his season hot.

"I just think that Grubi deserves the opportunity," Trotz told the Associated Press Tuesday, per ESPN. "It sort of evolved all year. There wasn't a date or anything like that. It just evolved and Grubi got more games and a bigger body of work."

Grubauer also said his more consistent ice time helped him at the end of the season.

"It helps playing more and more," he said, per the AP. "The more you get on the ice, the more experience you get. You see different situations and different teams. If you sit on the bench, you can get good from watching, but you've got to get the experience."

This will mark the first time the Capitals have started a goalie other than Braden Holtby in a postseason series since 2011, when Michael Neuvirth started between the pipes under coach Bruce Boudreau against the Rangers and Lightning. In Holtby's career, he's 29-30 in the postseason with a goals-against average of two. He also has a .932 save percentage in that span. 

Should Grubauer start to struggle, we may see Trotz have a quick hook against Columbus. And, Whyno added, this is by no means an endorsement for Grubauer for the entire postseason. When Trotz was asked how long Grubauer would start, he simply responded: "We're going game by game."

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