Philipp Grubauer is probably one of the most obvious entries in any list of breakout players for 2018-19. The 26-year-old posted great numbers last regular season, finishing 4th in save % and GAA and was even named the starter to begin the playoffs. After spending the last three seasons backing up Braden Holtby with the Capitals, he will finally have the chance to fight for a starting role after being acquired by the Colorado Avalanche. Can the German shine in a starting role? In a word, yes.
The biggest questions for backups turned starters is stamina. Can their small sample performance scale to 50-60 starts? Last season, Grubauer played 35 games, a career high. He actually ranked 37th in ice time among goalies, so just shy of being in “starter territory”, or one of the 31 most used netminders. Another bonus is the presence of Semyon Varlamov. The Russian played 50+ games in 5 of the last 7 seasons. He could easily spell Grubauer for 30 games if needed, giving the Avs two solid options in net and a chance to avoid burning out their starter. And given the fact the Avs spent significant assets to acquire him, it’s fair to say he’ll have more than a fair shot at winning the starting role.
What to Expect This Season
Opportunity alone can’t guarantee a breakout, however. Grubauer is going from a championship winning team roster in Washington to a Colorado team that had to win the last game of the season to snatch the last wildcard spot in arguably the toughest division in the league, the Central. But when looking at both team’s numbers from last year, things are again looking good for the German goalie.
Washington is obviously a great team, but during the regular season, they weren’t very good on defense. Even though they allowed fewer shots per game at even strength than Colorado (27.1 vs 27.7), Colorado was stingier in the more dangerous areas of the ice. The Avs ranked in the top half of the league in limiting slot shots, while Washington was 24th. The same story applies for inner slot shots, as Washington ranked 29th, while Colorado ranked 21st.
So, stats wise, it seems like Grubauer has landed in a good situation. Colorado is trending upwards, led by MVP candidate Nathan MacKinnon and they also added Ian Cole, who ranked 33rd in blocked shots per 20, to their defense. All this makes Grubauer’s outlook for 2018-19 very bright.
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)