The Washington Capitals hoped one of their two young goaltenders would separate themselves this season, but in the end, that did not happen. Ilya Samsonov started 39 games and Vitek Vanecek started 39 games.
Now, heading into their first-round matchup with the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers, Capitals’ head coach Peter Laviolette remains realistic that the team will likely end up using both goaltenders in the series, but is hopeful that Sammy or Vitek steps up and grab the reigns of the position moving forward.
“It hasn’t happened, but yet, in a 100-point season, we’ve been able to find success in that,” Laviolette said Monday after the Capitals’ second postseason skate. “They are two young goaltenders that are pushing every day. That’s where we’re at right now. That’s how we’ve found success. We relied on both goaltenders. We’ll count on both goaltenders.”
Laviolette said he’ll “probably” announce his starter on Tuesday — “I’ll probably keep goaltenders, like I did last year, closer to the vest” — but whoever plays in Game One “is where we’re going to start. You’d like to see the goaltender just take off and run.”
The Capitals will choose their starter after talking it over with the coaching staff and considering a bunch of different things.
“We go back and look at history, who’s playing well, and their seasons,” Laviolette said. “Who’s played well against Florida. Who has down the stretch here done a good job.”
Samsonov started in two of the team’s three games against the Florida Panthers this season and saw action in all three. The Russian netminder ended up with a 1-1 record, giving up 11 goals on 91 shots (.879 save percentage) and sporting a 4.54 goals against average. In the one game Vanecek started, the Czech gave up two goals on 15 shots before being pulled 36:22 into the game.
This season, Samsonov finished with a career-worst .896 save percentage and finished 107th in the league in Goals Saved Above Expected (-12.1) per Money Puck. Vanecek did not fare much better, ending the season with a .908 save percentage and ending up in 84th in GSAE (-5.4).
Zach Fucale, who was sensational in three of the four games he played at the NHL level this season, was called up to help the team in practice but is not currently under consideration to start per Laviolette.
“Yeah, I mean it’s a third goaltender,” Laviolette said. “It’s to take a break out on the ice once in a while. The goalies (don’t) think about it but the players go once every four minutes. The goalies go every 10 seconds. It’s more to keep the goaltenders fresh in practice and to have a goaltender with us as we travel.”
Pheonix Copley, who got one start for the Capitals during the regular season, will be in net for the Hershey Bears during their 2022 postseason run.
Goaltending could end up being the Capitals’ Achilles’ heel in the playoffs. When Samsonov or Vanecek had off nights during the regular season, the team was rarely able to recover. But after being unable to land Marc-Andre Fleury at the trade deadline, the Capitals will roll the dice again with the same guys that backstopped the team to a five-game loss against the Boston Bruins in the first round last year minus Craig Anderson.
“We have the players that we want here right now,” Laviolette said.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.