Photo: Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images
25 games without a goal can be a hard slump to overcome for any hockey rookie. That was the drought Jakub Vrana of the Washington Capitals had coming into Saturday night’s Stadium Series game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Midway through the second period, Vrana was in the neutral zone watching the puck being played out of his defensive zone.
Defenseman Dmitry Orlov poked the puck away from Mitchell Marner. Evgeny Kuznetsov grabbed it and flung the puck up the ice to Vrana. Suddenly an opportunity fell into his lap and he took full advantage. Vrana was all alone with only goaltender Frederik Anderson to beat. Vrana went five-hole right through Anderson’s legs.
“At first I was thinking the ice might be in a bad condition but it wasn’t that bad actually. Just had my head up and saw a little space next to his (Anderson’s) leg so I tried to do a quick, simple shot and thankfully it went in,” said Vrana.
The game was pretty much in hand with the Caps ahead 5-2 but this was more than just a goal for Vrana. This goal was Vrana’s first goal since Dec. 14 in a win over the Bruins. At the time of that tally before Christmas, it was Vrana’s 10th of the season. Since then it was a cycle of going into the lineup and out of the lineup. This was the perfect stage to end the slump with nearly 30,000 Caps fans looking on as well as in front of millions of hockey fans watching from home.
“That was a big relief for me. I was waiting for a goal many games. That was nice to have that feeling to score a goal again,” said Vrana.
“On the bench I said to him ‘you got the monkey off your back’. He had the biggest smile. He looked up. I know he’s been playing really well for us, he just hasn’t got the result. He’s a young guy and a goal like that is huge for him and his confidence and I think he’s gonna hopefully have a good streak here,” added Capitals head coach Barry Trotz.
Vrana’s confidence will be key in this upcoming stretch that the Capitals will be on. They’ll head to California for three games on the road at Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. The Capitals lost all three of those contests last season but coming off a thrilling win over Toronto outside as well as getting a big goal from one of their young guns gives them momentum heading into this trip.
“Just gonna keep going now. Got some confidence from that and now just gonna keep going into the next games,” said Vrana.
By Michael Marzzacco