Grubauer daring Caps not to keep him

Grubauer daring Caps not to keep him
December 27, 2013, 10:45 pm
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Oates: I have to get Fehr on the ice

Washington Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer (31) makes a save on New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto (4) in the third period at Verizon Center.

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

At some point the Capitals are going to need to make a decision on whether to keep Philipp Grubauer or send him back to the AHL Hershey Bears.

Grubauer is hell-bent on delaying that decision as long as humanly possible.

The 22-year-old rookie turned aside 38 of 40 shots in Friday night’s 3-2 win over the New York Rangers, improving his record to 5-1-1 and daring Capitals coach Adam Oates not to start him again on Sunday night in Buffalo.

“It’s only been eight games and goalies, like everybody, have their waves. Right now it looks like he’s playing with confidence and he’s giving the players confidence.”

If nothing else, Grubauer has provided a glimpse of his potential as an NHL goaltender and perhaps given Caps general manager George McPhee another trade option moving forward.

Caps backup Michal Neuvirth told CSNWashington.com last weekend that he still wants to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL -- if not in Washington, then somewhere else.

The NHL trade freeze is lifted at 12:01 on Saturday.

That’s the last thing on the mind of Grubauer, who has started six of the Caps’ last nine games.

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“Every win is a great feeling for me,” Grubauer said. “I try to tell myself I belong here.”

The Caps and Rangers were locked in a 2-2 tie late in the third period when Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi rang a shot off the post with the teams skating four aside. Seconds later, with 5:09 remaining in the game, the Caps broke out on a 3-on-2 and Eric Fehr cut to the inside to beat Rangers rookie goalie Can Talbot blocker side.

“Instead of going post in, it’s post out,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “This game is a game of inches.”

Grubauer said Girardi beat him with a good shot, but added, “Sometimes you need those lucky breaks. We went down and Fehrsie scored.”

Fehr said he had talked with Backstrom about trying to catch the Rangers on an odd-man rush.

“I thought I was going to deke wide and I changed my game plan and just shot puck,” Fehr said. “It as nice to get that one at a good time.”

Before Fehr’s goal, the Caps blew a pair of one-goal leads and kept emphasizing on the bench to play a patient, risk-free game against the Rangers, who fell six points behind the Caps in the Metropolitan Division standings.

“We talked about the reasons we weren’t able to protect the lead and some of the plays we shouldn’t have been making,” Fehr said. “We tried to correct that today. You could see we had everybody on board, dumping pucks in.

“Obviously, you’re going to have a few turnovers throughout the game, but we made it really hard on their D and they were getting tired by the end of the game and that really helped us.”

The Rangers lost defenseman Anton Stralman in the first period and were forced to overload defensemen Ryan McDonagh [29:53], Dan Girardi [27:35] and Michael Del Zotto [24.37].

“You go from six to five defensemen and your top three have to log tremendous amount of minutes,” Vigneault said. “That might make it more challenging at the end of the game as far as defending and attacking.”