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Colorado Crease: Philipp Grubauer’s early success holds off need to evaluate depth chart

Minnesota Wild v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Philipp Grubauer, shaking off last year’s early-season inconsistency to rise up as a bona fide NHL starter?

Never a doubt in our minds.

Grubauer, who took over the primary crease-minding duties for Colorado this season following the departure of Semyon Varlamov, has been perfectly fine through his first two games of the season.

It’s early yet; maybe Martin Jones and Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop will all find their sea legs, maybe Grubauer and Darcy Kuemper and John Gibson will start to falter, and maybe Carter Hart will outlast them all. We’re still at the part of the season where fanbases want to panic, but absolutely shouldn’t — after all, it hasn’t even been a full year since the current Stanley Cup Champions were sitting, quite literally, last place in the league to preface their historic rise to the top of everyone.

Still, Grubauer’s immediately-apparent comfort level is a reassurance for Avalanche fans. He’s posted a .900 or better in both of his games so far (and the .900 performance was a three-goal, 30-shot showing in the season opener, hardly worth too much scrutiny) to help the team to a perfect 2-0-0 record right off the bat.

The rest of the depth chart, on the other hand, still leaves a lot to be desired in the early days of the season.

The Colorado Eagles have kicked off their 2019-20 campaign as one of just three teams in the AHL to have gone 0-2-0 so far, allowing a league-worst (tied with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers) nine goals against in their two showings. Five of those were scored against the team’s newest acquisition, Antoine Bibeau — who allowed the five goals on just 24 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Stockton Heat — while three of the other four came against Adam Werner in a 4-2 loss the next day.

ECHL camps are still under way, so we won’t know for a while how the duo of Mason McDonald and Hunter Miska fare with the Utah Grizzlies. Both have AHL experience, which theoretically means they could come up and help the Eagles if Werner and Bibeau continue to have trouble. It’s a sneaky-good part of their depth chart, emulating the options they had to choose from when they boasted a struggling Spencer Martin in the AHL and an effective (but lower-ceiling) ECHL call-up in Joe Cannata.

To be fair to Werner, as well, he was given a rough outing in his first game of the year. The Eagles were undisciplined and disjointed in front of the first-year North American pro, taking three quick penalties in the first half of the first period alone. In the AHL, when shots can come in bunches or not come for minutes at a time, Werner was able to keep the Eagles within striking distance; he wasn’t able to steal them the game, but he didn’t torpedo their chances, either.

The brightest spot in the crease by far, though, has been Grubauer. Which, for the team, is worthy of a massive sigh of relief — because even though there are still some answers that they’ll need to find in the coming weeks, they can hold off on pondering them for now. So long as Grubauer performs as expected, they can even give Pavel Francouz some time to ease into his role.

All they really needed to get the season going was a best-case scenario from their new starter. And thankfully, that’s exactly what they’ve gotten.