Seattle Kraken, Philipp Grubauer

Kraken Goalie Philipp Grubauer Getting Even Better

Occasionally we check in on the Kraken goaltenders just to see how things are going at the ‘most important position on the ice’. In the case of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Seattle, it’s just goaltender, singular.

Philipp Grubauer has owned the crease with a .918 (91.8%) save percentage and a goals against average of 2.67 over ten games. He’s played every minute of every Kraken playoff game thus far.

“He’s been huge all playoffs for us, making saves at key times, last night (Game-3 vs. Stars) was another example,” Kraken defenseman Justin Schultz said Monday. “Score says one thing (7-2 Seattle win), but he made a couple of big saves that could have changed the outcome of the game. He’s been great for us.”

“He’s going out and doing his job,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said Monday. “I felt after Game-2 (a 4-2 loss to Dallas) there were some areas of his game that he wanted to challenge himself on, that he wanted to be a little bit better … I felt he could benefit from a couple of days, a little bit of rest, and to push himself to be at his very best and clean up a few areas of his game, and I felt he did that last night.”

As Schultz mentioned, hidden in the lopsided score in favor of the Kraken were some big saves by Grubauer against breakaways and odd-man rushes.

“Those are the opportunities in front of him that we have to clean up,” Hakstol said. “Those are important saves he made for us. The opportunities where we let (Jason) Robertson get in behind, (Roope) Hintz get in behind, those guys are not easy to handle in those situations and he did a nice job there. More importantly he did a nice job through traffic. This team (Dallas) generates, creates a lot with pucks coming to the net through traffic and he battled hard last night.”

Kraken’s New Challenge

We last checked in on “Grooby” on May 4th after the Kraken’s 5-4 overtime win in Game-1 in Dallas. He hasn’t let up, while Stars starter Jake Oettinger, another regular season and early postseason stalwart between the pipes, has looked shaky on more than one occasion against Seattle.

In the series opener, Oettinger got rattled in the 1st period. In Game-3, it was the 2nd period when he looked uncomfortable while giving up four goals on the first five Kraken shots. It eventually led to Stars head coach Pete DeBoer yanking his starter out of the game after 40 minutes and replacing him with Scott Wedgewood.

Oettinger will be back in for Game-4 and his team will expect nothing but the finest in netminding. As Stars GM Jim Nill told us earlier in the series, Oettinger is great in bounce-back games, as are his teammates.

With that in mind at the other end of the ice, Grooby will be confronted with his next big challenge on Tuesday night. The Stars should be ornery and providing a similar response to the one they had in Game-2 following the Game-1 loss.

In other words, “they’ll be coming hard.”

Analytically, Grubauer’s numbers continue to impress. His “goals saved above expected” number continues to climb upward during the playoffs. He’s given up 3.3 less goals than expected and his save percentage on high danger shots has also improved since we last checked in.

The Kraken have the opportunity to put a stranglehold on this series against the Stars. With seven goals of offensive support unlikely to happen again against a desperate Dallas club, the spotlight swings back to Grubauer.

Nothing new. He’s a goalie in the playoffs.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.