Scott Darling, Petr Mrazek, Eddie Lack, Andrew Hammond, Ondrej Pavelec, Devan Dubnyk, Ben Bishop.
All these are goaltenders who made their NHL playoff debuts in game one of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. Factor in that Freddie Andersen is still technically a new goalie, Jake Allen has one post-season appearance to his name leading into the playoffs, and the Calgary Flames have newly signed Jon Gillies waiting in the wings, and things are getting pretty strange in net this season.
Now, Philipp Grubauer is making a playoff debut of his own.
The Washington Capitals confirmed on Friday that starter Braden Holtby — who had a sluggish, unsuccessful start to the post-season when the New York Islanders thrashed the Capitals on Wednesday night — is missing the game with illness; the team recalled Grubauer from the AHL to start the game, leaving backup Justin Peters out of the equation. Holtby is listed as day-to-day, and the team won’t specify what’s wrong.
Grubauer has actually only made one NHL start in his professional career, when he stood strong in a 3-2 shootout victory for the Capitals over the Anaheim Ducks back on February 6th. This makes his second NHL start also his first NHL playoff start — if there was ever a case of a skater being thrust into the thick of things with little to no warning, this is it.
The German-born netminder, 23, was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Capitals themselves. As goaltending his hard to evaluate when players move from league to league and nation to nation — especially with Grubauer’s 6 foot even height putting him on the shorter side of the scale for NHL netminders — it was originally unclear whether he’d make it in the NHL long-term. As the clear starter for the AHL Hershey Bears this season, though, he’s been lights out — it’s clear that his calm in-net persona have translated well, and he’s learning to track the more accurate shots you’ll see at the top North American levels with a bit more precision. He’s another excellent product of the Mitch Korn Army of Insanely Good Netminders, and could eventually challenge for a starting role on a top team.