Washington Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov allowed four goals on 26 shots against the New York Islanders on Tuesday night. His struggles further compound an issue the team has had the entire season: The Capitals have no idea who they can lean on as their starting goaltender.
Caps head coach Peter Laviolette went on The Sports Junkies the morning after the game to do his weekly hit on the show and spoke about that issue.
In regards to how inconsistent his netminders have been, Laviolette admits that the team may have to go with an unconventional approach of playing both goaltenders in the playoffs. The bench boss has previously said he wanted one of Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek to separate themselves from the other and neither has been able to.
The transcript of Laviolette’s comments about Ovechkin with the Sports Junkies is below. The questions from the Sports Junkies have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Did Sammy’s play last night affect your decision on who will start in the postseason?
Peter Laviolette: When you talk about our goaltending for the last couple years, both Sammy and Vitek have gone in for stints and played some. Then the other goaltender has gone in and played some. It’s really moved like that even though you say ‘I’d really like for this guy to elevate himself. And this guy hasn’t done the job.’ Both guys have gone in and provided us wins, provided us good play. At times, there’s a run where Vitek’s been really good and then he may come off of it a little bit, and then Sammy goes in and provides some wins. I guess what I’m saying is, that’s how our goaltending has moved since I’ve been here. We’ve had two young goaltenders. We didn’t come in with a number one. This was the guy who has been here five years. This is the guy that’s the number one goalie. So when we played the shortened season last year and we played the last year here we’ve relied on both goaltenders. Even down the stretch here, both goaltenders have played some really good games for us. We played off of them as well. One’s gone in for a couple games and then he comes out and the next one goes in for a couple games. I think we’re going to play it out down the stretch here with two games remaining on the road. We’ll get both goaltenders. Keep them sharp. And on Game One, we’ll name a starter.
Are you of the mindset that you want to play one guy that’s hot? You’d rather not ride the wave in the playoffs?
Peter Laviolette: I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. That’s what we’ve tried to do. I’ve stated that. I’d like to get to a point where one guy clearly rises above the other and we have this situation where ‘this is our number one goalie. This is the guy who’s starting.’ It would be obvious to you because you would see them in there night after night after night. That’s not the way it’s been since I’ve been here. It hasn’t gone that way yet we’ve found success by using both young goaltenders. There may be a chance that’s the way it goes in the playoffs. It could very well be that situation. We’ll end up starting a goalie. If we end up winning the first two games and that goaltender will probably start the third game. If it doesn’t go that way, the third game you might change. That’s the way it’s been for a year and a half or two years.
Will Vitek start Thursday against the Islanders?
Peter Laviolette: I’m heading into the office right now and so we’re going to talk about that going in there. Sammy played last night so there’s a good chance Vitek will get at least one of these games.
Both goaltenders have mightily struggled of late but it’s rather clear statistically that Samsonov has been worse off for the bulk of the season. The young Russian does not have a save percentage above .898 in a month since November. In April he has amassed a 4-2 record with a 3.38 goals-against average and a .879 save percentage.
CASEY. CIZIKAS. 😱 pic.twitter.com/Cjnt4bV73R
— NHL (@NHL) April 27, 2022
Vanecek hasn’t been much better as he has saved his worst stretch of play this season for the exact stretch of play he needed to play well to separate himself from Samsonov. In April, he is 3-1 with a 2.89 goals-against average and a .887 save percentage.
So, it’s clear that recently the team has found numerous ways to win without a ton of help from either backstop. Can they keep that up for the playoff run? That appears to be what Laviolette will have to lean on.
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