Grubauer’s NHL debut tops two-month whirlwind

Philipp Grubauer made his NHL debut in relief of Braden Holtby on Feb. 27. (Candice Monhollan)

Philipp Grubauer made his NHL debut in relief of Braden Holtby on Feb. 27. (Candice Monhollan)

In just one night, goaltender Philipp Grubauer’s phone and Facebook exploded with messages from former Reading Royals and South Carolina Stingrays teammates and friends from home.

It was a big night for the 21 year old as in just one day, he was recalled from the Hershey Bears of the AHL to the big club and made his NHL debut that night with the Washington Capitals.

“I was just soaking it in [on the bench],” Grubauer said. “I was really paying attention to the game and what everybody does; what [Braden] Holtby does and what [Ilya] Bryzgalov does.”

What he didn’t expect was his name to be called by Capitals head coach Adam Oates to take over in net.

Grubauer made his entrance 14:55 into the second period in a game between the Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers Feb. 27. After allowing four goals on 18 shots, Holtby was pulled in favor of Grubauer.

“It doesn’t matter if Holtby or anybody gets in goal,” Grubauer said. “You always have to be ready on the bench. Once the opportunity came, I was really excited about it and it felt great.”

The rookie admitted to being nervous, but it didn’t show once the game continued as he stopped all 14 shots in relief.

“When I skated down toward the net, I thought, ‘This is it. This is the NHL,’” Grubauer said. “As soon as the puck dropped, it was all business.”

The native of Rosenheim, Germany, became the 12th ECHL player to make his NHL debut this season after starting the year with the Royals due to the lockout.

Despite a second year in the ECHL when it was expected he would be with the Bears, he kept a positive attitude during his time with the Royals.

“There was nothing I could do about playing in Reading,” Grubauer said. “You can’t really change anything, so I just tried to make a point down there and show them I belong in the AHL and it’s what I tried to do.”

Once the lockout came to an end, Grubauer was immediately recalled to the Bears on Jan. 7. In a whirlwind of 52 days, he played in the ECHL, debuted in the AHL and debuted in the NHL. He also became the first player in the ECHL to play in the All-Star Game and the NHL in the same season.

“It was pretty quick,” Grubauer said. “When you think about it, a couple weeks ago we talked in Reading and all the sudden you get the call [to the NHL] and you actually play. That was amazing and a great experience and a dream come true.”

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Categories: Features, Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports

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