After two games in Florida that saw Vitek Vanecek go 1-1 with a 4.21 goals-against average and a .863 save percentage, Washington Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette has seen enough and is turning to Ilya Samsonov in net for Game Three against the Panthers.
Samsonov relieved Vanecek in Game Two and blanked the Panthers, making 17 saves on 17 shots.
Ilya Samsonov gets the nod in net for Game 3, per head coach Peter Laviolette.#CapsCats pic.twitter.com/viB3XVJmOc
— x – Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 7, 2022
“[Ilya] came in and we didn’t play very well in front of him, and he looked really good in there and comfortable,” Laviolette said per The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir. “Like I said before the series, it’s something that we’ve done this year is both goaltenders have had an opportunity and gone in and played well.”
Saturday afternoon will be the Russian netminder’s fourth ever start in the playoffs and his fifth appearance overall. He did not earn a victory in any of his prior three starts which all came against the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2021 postseason. In those four total appearances, he holds a 2.72 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
Laviolette seemed to play down Samsonov’s relief appearance on Thursday, muddling any predictions on which goaltender he’d go with Saturday.
“I thought [Ilya] came in and played well because I don’t think we played very well at all in the third,” the bench boss said after Game Two. “I thought he came in and made some saves. He had a lot of shots from outside. He got to field some pucks. That was good. Had to make a couple of saves as well.”
MoneyPuck has Vanecek as the second-worst goaltender in the playoffs so far with -3.1 Goals Saved Above Expected, “bested” only by Nashville’s David Rittich’s -3.7. Samsonov is at +1.9 just via that one period in Sunrise.
One thing that may be on Samsonov’s side when he takes the ice is that he started all three games against the Panthers during the regular season. Sammy may be more comfortable seeing the shooters on the other side of the puck. He went 1-1-1 in those games with a 4.54 goals-against average and a .879 save percentage.
The Capitals, as an organization, have had success in the past when switching their starters around for Game Three in a first-round series. Just ask Sergei Bobrovsky and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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