After an eventful three year career in the Mile HIgh City Philip Grubauer is making his return to Ball Arena. Grubauer was traded to Colorado from Washington on June 22nd, 2018, immediately after winning a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals for a second round pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. In his three year stint with the Avalanche Grubauer played 113 regular season games for the organization, going 66-30-10 with a .928 SV% and a 2.02 GAA, both the third highest in the league during that span. Grubauer also started 29 playoff games for Colorado with three series wins and a stellar .928 SV% to go along with a 2.12 GAA. Across his three years in Colorado Grubauer was also tied with Jusse Saros for fourth in regular season shutouts, with a total of 12 and tied with six other goalies for fifth in playoff shutouts with two. Grubauer was also nominated for the Vezina Trophy in 2021 as one of the league’s three best goaltenders. It’s safe to say he had quite the career in Colorado with a lot of great moments.
I originally wrote a deeper dive into Grubauer’s career with the Avalanche but I figured due to his salty end with the organization and current struggles in Seattle this season I would reflect only on the positives of his 142 game career in Denver. The German netminder played an instrumental role in the Avs success during his three years here and I felt it was important to remember those over the negatives much of the fanbase has been since he signed his massive free agent deal to go to Seattle, so here are the 10 best moments of Philip Grubauer’s time with the Colorado Avalanche.
Honorable Mention: Grubauer’s Big Save in Game 2 OT vs. Calgary
This save often goes under the radar of many fans, mostly due to a more infamous save from the same series that will show up on this list, but this save helped Colorado earn the split in Calgary and come back home to a bumping Pepsi Center with the series tied at one a piece.
After Ian Cole turned the puck over right to Matthew Tkachuck in the Colorado zone Tkachuck found a wide open Michael Frolik directly in front of Philip Grubauer. With the game on the line Grubauer made a huge left pad save like he would so many times during his Avalanche career. Immediately after the shot Cole would steer the puck up for MIkko Rantanen who laid a perfect pass for Nathan MacKinnon to skate into as he entered the Flames zone with speed. MacKinnon then blasted a shot past the glove hand of Mike Smith to give the Avalanche the win, all because of the “game winning save” by Grubauer.
10. 39 Save Win Over Bruins
Any time you put up a .950 save percentage on a high octane offense like the 2019-20 Boston Bruins it’s going to turn some heads, even if it’s only the third game of the season.
Coming off two wins to start the season Philip Grubauer and the Avalanche were riding high before a game against the Bruins at the Pepsi Center. Before the first period was even over the Bruins had a 2-0 lead. Thanks to Grubauer standing tall after giving up two goals, neither of which he could be blamed for, and two goals in ten minutes of gameplay the Avalanche found themselves with a clean slate for the second half of the game. Grubauer would save 22 shots in a row in the second half of the game, including a big left pad save (told you there would be a lot of those) on Brad Marchand on a 2 on 1 to keep the game tied at two to start the third period. After saving 30 straight shots in the game Grubauer would also be given the first star of the game honors as he collected his third straight win to start the season.
9. 2021 MLB All-Star Celebrity Softball Game
This would unfortunately be Grubauer’s last time in the public eye as a member of the Colorado Avalanche, but it was a big moment for Grubauer.
Every year before the actual All-Star Game the MLB puts on a Celebrity Softball Game at the host venue, usually consisting of local celebrities and athletes. With the All-Star game being held at Coors Field Philip Grubauer represented the Avalanche along with fellow local athletes Von Miller and Brandon McManus of the Denver Broncos, Will Barton of the Denver Nuggets, and former University of Colorado basketball player and member of the San Antonio Spurs Derrick White. Being from Germany, somewhere where baseball isn’t very prevalent, Grubauer clearly had a disadvantage when it came to certain aspects of the game, like hitting, but he was still able to record a base hit for Team Helton. Everytime Grubauer’s name was mentioned it was met with a “Gruuuuuu” from the crowd. It was a fun event to witness and it being Grubauer’s last major appearance as an Av merited it’s inclusion in this list.
8. 36 Save Win Against Vegas
With three games remaining in the 2021 regular season the Avalanche entered Vegas needing to win in regulation against the Golden Knights to keep their dreams of winning the West Division and the President’s Trophy alive.
Despite the rest of the team not showing up for almost the entire game outside of the brief moments when they were able to put the puck in the net Grubauer was on fire this game. Throughout the majority of the 38 games leading up to this game Grubauer had only faced over 35 shots in a game twice, once in a 3-2 OT win over the Anaheim Ducks in the fifth game of the season and again in a 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes in April. Much as he did in the two aforementioned games, Grubauer shut the door on the Vegas Golden Knights, saving 28 shots after allowing a goal from Alex Pietrangelo eight minutes into the game. Grubauer’s biggest test would come in the second period when he faced 15 shots and had most of the action directly in front of him.
Two blowouts against the Los Angeles Kings later the Avalanche had clinched the President’s Trophy and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs, thanks mostly to Grubauer’s heroic performance in Vegas.
7. Third Period and OT vs. Florida Panthers 10/18/19
I know it may seem odd to just include twenty five-ish minutes of hockey of a sixty five-ish minute game, but if you remember this game you know why I am doing so.
Very similar to the two other complete games on this list Grubauer had a rough start to the game, but came in clutch when it mattered most. In the first two periods of this game Philip Grubauer allowed four goals on 28 shots against the Florida Panthers, three of the four being goals he would probably like back. After a rough forty minutes of hockey Grubauer stood on his head to keep the score knotted at four a piece. In the Vegas and Boston games Grubauer made some big saves along the way but never had to make quite as spectacular of saves as he did in the dying minutes of this game to keep the score tied at four. In the final ten minutes alone Grubauer robbed both Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov, two of the most talented players in the NHL. These two saves allowed the Avalanche to get to overtime so Nathan MacKinnon could rip home the game winner three minutes into the overtime period.
6. First Career Playoff Shutout
In Games 1, 2, and 3 of Colorado’s second round matchup against the San Jose Sharks Philip Grubauer had played well, he certainly wasn’t the reason the Avalanche were behind 2-1 in the series going into Game 4, but he didn’t do all he was capable of doing to help the team succeed, that wasn’t the case in Game 4.
Game 4 was as big of a must win for the Avalanche as a game can be without it being a literal must win. After dropping Game 3 at home to the Sharks the Avalanche needed to respond, and largely thanks to Philip Grubauer they did just that. Throughout the game Grubauer never faced a ton of high danger chances thanks to some solid defense from the team in front of him, but there’s a reason shutouts are special, they’re never easy. Grubauer would face 32 shots, with the most dangerous being a Gustav Nyquist breakaway in the second period that Grubauer stretched his right leg out to stop. Grubauer’s shutout might not have been as flashy as some of his others but the situation and significance make it the most important of the fourteen.
5. 2020 First Round Series vs. Arizona
Now we start getting into the hot stretches Grubauer had during his time in an Avalanche sweater. I have always thought this performance by Grubauer went undersold due to the team’s dominating performance in the five game series against the Coyotes.
Like I said this was one of the most underrated streaks of Philip Grubauer’s career. In Game 1 of the series Grubauer got his second career Playoff shutout by stopping all 14 Arizona shots as the Avalanche got off to an early lead in the series with a 3-0 win. Two days later Grubauer would help the Avalanche squeak out a win by stopping 30 of 32 shots in Game 2, much more of a challenge for the German goaltender. This much bigger performance gave the Avs a 2-0 series lead and Gave Grubauer some momentum to get him through his break. With the odd structure due to the league needing to make the Playoffs go as quick as possible while still ensuring a good product every series had a back to back included at one point in it. Thanks to Pavel Francouz’s stellar regular season the Avalanche felt comfortable resting Grubauer on the second game of the back to back, a game that they would lose. In two of the most infamous consecutive Playoff games in recent history the Avalanche beat the Coyotes 7-1 in back to back games to win the series in five games. Grubauer faced 15 shots in Game 4 and 24 in Game 5 to finish the beating of Arizona. In neither of the two games did Grubauer put on some spectacular show but he still put up amazing numbers to round out what was one of the more impressive four game runs from a goalie I have seen in the playoffs.
Grubauer going 4-0 in the Arizona series with a 1.00 GAA and a .952 SV%. Just let those numbers sink in because they are absolutely nuts and deserve to be in the top five of this list.
4. Final 13 Games of 2018-19 Season
This 13 game stretch was the most impressive streak of his career. Throughout the entirety of March and a few days into April Grubauer brought the Avalanche back from the dead to clinch a playoff spot.
In this stretch Grubauer went 9-2-2 with a .956 SV%... yes you read that right a .956 save percentage across a 13 game stretch. That is simply unheard of and to make it more crazy Grubauer faced 30+ shots nine times during that span and 40+ three times, so it wasn’t like he was making a few saves on the way to easy wins, the man was BATTLING for wins that would eventually get the Avalanche into the postseason.
Grubauer would have three shutouts during this stretch, the first a 38 save performance in a 5-0 pounding of the eventual Central Division Champions the Nashville Predators, the second an 18 save night against the Buffalo Sabres and the third a 22 save outing against the New Jersey Devils. You’d think not letting a single puck past him when facing 38 shots against the best team in the division would be his best game of the streak, like it would be for normal goalies, it could also go to his 42 save night against the Coyotes in the fifth to last game of the season that allowed the Avalanche to clinch a postseason birth five nights later but no. The most impressive game of Philip Grubauer’s otherworldly 13 game streak was his 44 save night against the Avalanche’s fellow wild card team, the Dallas Stars, in Dallas.
With the team’s playoff hopes on the line Philip Grubauer stepped up and he did so in a MASSIVE way.
3. 39 Saves in Game 2 vs. Vegas Golden Knights
In the five games prior to the Round 2 Game 2 matchup against the Golden Knights Philip Grubauer never had much of a challenge and walked out of all five games with a win, this would be Grubauer’s first big test in the 2021 Postseason. It would also end up being Grubauer’s most impressive single game playoff performance of his career with the Avalanche.
Two nights prior the Avalanche had beaten Vegas 7-1 to give themselves a 1-0 lead in the second round series. For the first period of the game it seemed like the Avalanche fed off of the momentum of that big Game 1 victory and went to the locker room for the first intermission with a 2-1 lead and an 11-9 advantage in shots. Things soon turned against Colorado, but luckily Philip Grubauer turned into an animal in the crease. Vegas put 31 shots on Grubauer in the following two periods, and he was able to stop all but one to keep the Avalanche from completely blowing their lead in the game. In the first half of the third period Grubauer shut down Vegas, stopping not one, but two breakways at the beginning of the period from two of Vegas’ best players Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch. Eventually Mikko Rantanen would score the game winning goal two minutes into overtime and the Avs would go to Vegas with a 2-0 series lead after Grubauer all but won Colorado the game in his final victory as a member of the Avalanche.
2. Nominated for Vezina
In Grubauer’s three years here he had some hot stretches like the one mentioned at number four, but he never had quite as good of a complete season as he did in the 2021 season.
Grubauer started all but 16 games for the Avalanche in the shortened 56 game season, the most of any goalie in the NHL that season. Despite the season being shorter set a personal record for wins in a season with 30 and shutouts, with 7, which tied former teammate Semyon Varlamaov for first in the league. In the two seasons prior Grubauer started 37 and 36 games, but had 12 less wins in just four fewer games, showing just how special of a season he had. Grubauer also had the lowest GAA in the league in 2021 with a 1.95 and the third highest save percentage in the league with a .922. Grubauer’s advanced statistics weren’t quite as stellar but he still finished in the top ten in goals saved above expected with 5.2 and save percentage above expected with .003. Many faulted Grubauer for being on such a good team, which is part of the reason he ended up third out of the three Vezina finalists, but finishing in the top ten in every major goaltending category is extremely impressive. Grubauer had an incredible final season with the Avalanche and I hope every Avs fan who got to witness it will appreciate it.
These incredible numbers show exactly why Grubauer was nominated for the Vezina Trophy, and although it’s upsetting Grubauer didn’t win the award, it’s great to know he got the recognition he deserved, even if he should’ve finished higher in the voting.
1. Left Pad Lift in Game 4 OT vs. Calgary
Every Avalanche fan who was watching Game 4 in the Calgary series remembers this save. This save is what won the Avalanche this series, which played a big part in who they are today. It’s easy to say this save changed Avalanche history as we know it.
With 17:33 remaining in overtime the Calgary Flames had a chance to even the series and send it back to Calgary with the momentum in their favor. After a whiffed shot by Matthew Tkachuck found its way through a mass of chaos in front of the Avalanche net directly to a wide open Mikael Backlund the Avalanche’s chances at completing the comeback in Game 4 seemed gone. Backlund had a wide open net with only Grubauer’s left pad (see here it is again) covering the net. Backlund immediately fired a shot that was going a few inches above Grubauer’s pad and the game seemed less than a second from completion. Then came one of the most iconic saves in Avalanche history as Grubauer lifted his pad up no more than a few inches off the ice to save the game for the Avalanche. Immediately the Pepsi Center was overwhelmed with the infamous “Gruuuuuuu” chant. This tiny pad lift was almost a sign to the Avalanche that they would win the game as seven minutes later Mikko Rantanen would fire home his second goal of the game right above the left pad of Mike Smith.
If Backlund scores this goal the Flames go back to a much more lively Calgary crowd than they one they had in the must win Game 5 that actually occurred. This win could’ve given the Flames a new found life in the series but instead was Philip Grubauer’s way of telling the Flames to get their tee times ready because this series was done.
I hope you guys enjoyed this look back at Grubauer’s best moments with the Avalanche. Personally I’m rooting for him, except for tonight. Were there any moments you felt were snubbed?