Former Capital Vitek Vanecek is out of the starters’ net for New Jersey. Akira Schmid earned his first career playoff start in Game Three against the New York Rangers.
The Devils have floundered in their first two playoff games, losing both at home with a score of 5-1. Vanecek has only a .827 save percentage in that span, giving up nine goals on 52 shots. He served as the team’s backup as the series moved to Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Akira leads us out at MSG. 😤 pic.twitter.com/j1qFyQuuEO
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 22, 2023
The team’s lackluster performance goes beyond bad goaltending: they’ve struggled to score and have allowed the Rangers’ offense to run up the score once they have the lead. Tempers have flared on both sides of the ice, seeing 10 players earn misconducts in the last period of Game Two. Still, Vanecek has struggled. He has let in 2.4 goals above expected during the two starts and put the Devils immediately in the hole in Game One, surrendering two goals in the first 10 minutes of the game.
This situation might sound familiar to Caps fans, closely mirroring Vanecek’s playoff performance last season. After a poor showing by Vanecek in the first round against the Florida Panthers, Ilya Samsonov came in in relief partway through Game Two and remained the Caps’ starter for the remainder of the series.
Schmid, who has played for both the Devils and the AHL’s Utica Comets this season, has performed well in his limited role. He put up a record of 9-5-0 in 14 starts and led the team in regular-season save percentage and GAA. Saturday’s performance could signal whether Schmid’s impressive numbers will translate to success in an elevated role.
While Vanecek won’t start for Game Three, another former Capital will return to the Devils’ lineup. Jonas Siegenthaler will play on the team’s first defensive pairing after being a healthy scratch for Game Two.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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