The Washington Capitals are getting ready to face the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs, and the team announced on Tuesday afternoon that goalie Philipp Grubauer will get the start for the first game of the postseason over Braden Holtby.
"I think that Grubi deserves the opportunity," head coach Barry Trotz said, according to NHL.com's Brian McNally.
Grubauer has been the better goaltender this season, posting a .923 save percentage and a 2.35 goals-against average in 35 games. Holtby, meanwhile, regressed significantly, as he registered just a .907 save percentage and a 2.99 GAA in 54 contests.
"Braden was fantastic. An absolute pro," Trotz said when asked how Hotlby handled the news.
However, I cannot be as sure that Holtby will be as fantastic with the breaking report of a major shakeup to come in the Capitals' roster. It has been reported that netminder Ilya Samsonov will fly to Washington to sign his entry level contract, per his agent, Igor Larionov.
The Capitals 2015 first-round pick has been expected to sign with the Capitals after the current KHL season concludes. His team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk was eliminated from the postseason on Friday after a 3-1 loss to Ak Bars Kazan. Samsonov played in five games during Metallurg’s postseason run, posting a 1-2 record. The Caps prospect turned away 94 of 103 shots he faced for a .913 save percentage. He won a championship, the Gagarin Cup, with Metallurg during the 2015-16 season.
Samsonov is considered one of the most talented goaltending prospects not currently playing in the NHL. The young netminder met with Caps general manager Brian MacLellan in December, which had pushed TSN’s Bob McKenzie to tweet that it was “reasonably safe to believe” Samsonov will be on an NHL contract next season.
It appears that Trotz will use a similar strategy in the playoffs to the one he used during the regular calendar, as he said he'll decide on his starting netminder on a "game-by-game" basis. While the Caps might be making a major move ahead of the next season, it seems that for now, Samsonov has been told that he will report to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League.
It is surprising that Washington won't have its former Vezina and Jennings Trophy winner in net to begin the postseason, but imagine if the addition of Samsonov pushes Holtby out the door...