It took five seasons toiling in the minor leagues, but Vitek Vanecek earned his first NHL start on January 15, 2021 in a back-to-back against the Buffalo Sabres. The Czech goaltender was spectacular during the game, stopping 30 of 31 shots to earn his first career victory. “The dream came true,” Vanecek remarked afterward. In the Zoom room, he got a shaving cream pie to the face from Tom Wilson.
While Vanecek’s teammates in Washington and Hershey were especially proud in the moment, so were three old friends on Long Island: Islanders head coach Barry Trotz, assistant Lane Lambert, and goaltending coach Mitch Korn.
All three coaches worked very closely with Vanecek in Washington from 2014 until they departed for the Islanders in the summer of 2018.
“I can tell you this, from just knowing him as a person and being in the same organization with him,” Trotz said Tuesday before the Islanders’ first game of the season against Washington. “I can speak for Mitch Korn and Lane Lambert, who were all with Washington. When Vitek was getting his first start and his first win, we were as happy for him getting it as anybody – as if we were on the staff in Washington.
“He’s just one of those guys people rally around,” Trotz added. “He’s done a really good job. He’s playing really well.”
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 16, 2021
Trotz also shared some insight about Vanecek from his time in Washington.
“I think what you’d find with Vitek personality-wise, he’s got one of those great attitudes,” Trotz said. “He’s got a smile on his face. Comes to work every day. Takes his craft seriously. He’s worked at it. He’s a guy, I know he lived with Jakub Vrana, and he helped Jake Vrana, who’s a forward, just make the adjustment coming over from a different country. But he’s a competitive guy. He’s not overly big. He’s learned to play a style of game with patience and with a lot of technique with the style of goalie he is.
“He’s turned out to be a goalie that’s afraid of the big moments. He’s pretty calm when you watch him in the shootouts, I think probably four overtime games now? He seems very calm. Comes up with big saves at key times.”
It’s quite obvious from these quotes that the time Trotz, Lambert, and Korn spent in Washington was very special to them.
— Mitch Korn (@mitchkorn35) June 14, 2018
Maybe the coolest pic ever. pic.twitter.com/e5yRnh4W3N
— Mitch Korn (@mitchkorn35) June 23, 2016
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