The name of the game is goalie, but in the case of the Seattle Kraken, it’s Grooby.
While knocking on the nearest wood for the benefit of Kraken fans and the hockey gods, one can state that Philipp Grubauer has been outstanding this postseason after an occasionally uneven regular season.
“This entire (postseason), through the first eight games here, he’s had a real good ability to just move on to the next save,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said Thursday morning. “Nothing has lingered with him from game to game, nothing has carried over from one to the next. If a puck gets by him, he’s been able to move on to the next play, the next save. That’s really given our group confidence and it’s obviously going to be a big piece continually moving forward.”
Hakstol has also been quick to point out on multiple occasions that Grubauer was better in the regular campaign that his numbers indicate. From an early season injury to backing up Martin Jones for a stint into the New Year, Hakstol believes Grooby has simply been building up to this point.
He was a savior in overtime on Tuesday night in the Kraken’s 5-4 sudden death victory, and he was particularly good in the 1st period while surviving an early Stars onslaught.
As we’ve mentioned here before, if the cliché fits, use it. There are many in the sport of hockey, none more frequently used than the key to playoff hockey being “special teams and goaltending” and “your goalie needs to be your best penalty killer.”
The Kraken check both boxes at the same time with Grubauer, a key reason why the the Seattle PK has successfully killed off 18 of 20 opposing power plays thus far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As Hakstol mentioned, maybe the greatest intangible a goalie can provide is confidence in his teammates. They know that if a mistake is made, they still have a reliable last line of defense and that all of the routine stops will be made.
His Kraken teammates will attest to the level of that confidence building.
“A ton, a ton” Kraken forward Ryan Donato said Thursday morning. “He’s making the big save right now. There’s certain times in the game when you need that save and it seems like we can always count on him.”
Grubauer has a .921 (92.1%) save percentage in the playoffs thus far with a goals against average of 2.57 over eight games. With slightly more intricate analytics, he’s given up 2.2 less goals than expected this postseason and he’s stopped almost 71% of high danger chances.
Grubauer is also keeping pucks alive while not giving up outrageous rebounds. For a team that likes to move pucks and go north/south as quickly as possible, he’s frozen more than 20 less pucks than expected.
Grubauer will face another very strong netminder Thursday night in the Stars Jake Oettinger, who did appear to get a bit rattled in the 1st period on Tuesday evening when the Kraken scored four times, with three of those goals coming in a span of 52-seconds.
In a chat with seattlehockeyinsider.com on Thursday morning, Stars head coach Pete DeBoer agreed that Oettinger may have been a bit rattled, but it was more a reflection of the team in general. He felt his entire club played a very poor first period after their opening volleys.
DeBoer was also quick to point out that Oettinger improved as Tuesday night went on, and on any occasion in the past when he’s had a brief struggle, his subsequent game was outstanding.
That sets us up for an exciting Thursday night where the focus will be where it always is in the postseason, on the creases. Grubauer vs. Oettinger, Game-2.