News : NHL: Avalanche goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer plays season of his life – sport
Philipp Grubauer drove slowly out of his goal after the game; like someone you want to push because he can’t do it on his own. Exhaustion wasn’t the reason, however, rather a mixture of disappointment and curiosity. The goalkeeper of Colorado Avalanche looked up at the video screen for a long time, he wanted to see how on earth his team could still lose this fifth playoff game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Grubauer saw Vegas winger Mark Stone get the puck and peek past him. The winning goal came from an attack by Colorado and could hardly have been more symbolic: Colorado had led 2-0 after two periods and still lost 3-2 after extra time. They had led 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, now they are 2: 3 behind. When Grubauer left the ice, after three hours of jubilation and hustle and bustle, it was as quiet as a mouse.
“Gruuuuuuu!” Avalanche fans always roar when Grubauer holds a shot; the extent of the enthusiasm can be seen from the length of the “U”. Athletes generally like it when people shout their name (or a short form), but in this case there was something negative about it: Every “Gruuuuuuu!” meant Vegas had already shot again, and so far there have been way too many calls that contained the “U” on this show. Grubauer had to make way too many parades; the current shot ratio: 169: 130 for Vegas, and that includes the outlier 7: 1 (37:25 shots) for Colorado in the first game. Since then: 144: 93 for Vegas.
What sets Grubauer apart: Conscientious work and Bavarian composure
The fact that it is only 2: 3 is mainly due to Grubauer. He is the backing of this team that had the most points (82) in the regular season. During the corona pandemic, the playoffs are regionally divided, Colorado is already playing in the quarterfinals against Vegas, which had just as many points. It’s a gripping, high-class series, small details should decide the victory. And that in turn has a lot to do with the Bavarian goalkeeper, who is one of the three finalists in the election for the best goalkeeper of this NHL season.
Because Grubauer is playing a fantastic season. “I’ve never seen someone like him,” says Darren Hersh; he has been training goalkeepers for 26 years and is currently youth coordinator for the US Federation. Nine years ago he was the goalkeeping coach of the Reading Royals, to which the NHL team from Washington had sent the young pit farmer. He still tells a story about Grubauer to young players today, says Hersh: “When exercising agility, Grubauer always went a few centimeters further than everyone else. That doesn’t sound like much, but it makes the difference at this level: He always works a little more than the others, even if he’s the best. “
Grubauer reacts with lightning speed. Hersh also believes that he converted the legendary Wayne Gretzky saying (“I don’t go where the puck is – I go where it will be”) for goalkeepers. Due to his agility, his conscientious, hour-long game analysis and his Bavarian composure, Grubauer is able to better sense situations and then be where the puck will go.
When others are relaxing in the hotel room, Grubauer puts on the virtual reality glasses
“Analyze and adapt,” says Grubauer of himself: “Small steps over years.” The past three seasons have been difficult for him. He won the Stanley Cup with Washington in 2018, but was relegated to the bench during the playoffs. This was followed by a move to Colorado, last season he was injured at the beginning of the elimination round, Avalanche lost the decisive game after extra time in the second round.
This leads to a second expert who can explain Grubauer’s astonishing overview. Bob Tetiva is the founder of the virtual reality company Sense Arena. Their program allows goalkeepers to train using Oculus glasses. NHL teams Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, Los Angeles Kings, Arizona Coyotes, and New Jersey Devils use it, and a video of Grubauer training in October last year quickly spread across the internet. It’s not rocket science, it’s not a matrix method; it’s about being able to work on hand-eye coordination without having to go out onto the ice in full gear and risking overload or even injury. “Philipp doesn’t play around with it, he really works with it,” says Tetiva. When others are relaxing in the hotel room, Grubauer sometimes puts on the virtual reality glasses, just as he always drove a few centimeters further than the others at the Reading Royals.
It is these details that have made Grubauer one of the best goalkeepers in the world. And that’s exactly what they need in Denver because one of the other finalists for the Vezina Trophy is Vegas goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury, who made a small mistake on Tuesday – who was immediately punished with a goal. It will depend on these little things in this series, the sixth game will take place on Thursday in Las Vegas, the decisive seventh game (if Colorado wins) would be on Saturday in Denver. Grubauer, 29, would certainly have nothing against a few “Gruuuuuuu” calls. What would be worse: silence.