Washington Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said that he told some players not to practice on Monday depending on how much they played in the team’s three games in four days. Tuesday’s game at the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 PM ET, NBCSN nationally, NBC Sports Washington locally) will be the team’s fourth game in six nights. Laviolette felt like he went over a lot in the 30-minute practice with the players who practiced on Monday.
After Vitek Vanecek shined in his NHL debut on Friday where he had 30 saves in the team’s 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres, Laviolette said that his plan is going to be “pretty much a little bit of both” between rotating and going with one. Though he did acknowledge that if either gets hot, “we may lean towards that person a little bit more. … They both played well to this point but we’ll continue to evaluate.”
Laviolette said that “I definitely lean on [goaltending coach Scott Murray],” who worked with both Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov with the AHL’s Hershey Bears in 2018-19. He added that “I think their past history does help. … That’s a good scenario” and strengthens their relationship.
On starting the season with four consecutive road games, Laviolette said that road trips are “different” during the COVID-19 era but acknowledged that “the schedule makes it … better.” He likes not playing having his players play back-to-back nights in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, for example. “[It] takes the grind out of it a little bit,” he said.
When asked about his team’s penalty kill, which has staved off 17 of 18 power-plays for the opponent, Laviolette told the media that “there is a carry-over from last year,” when the Capitals finished sixth in the NHL with an 82.6% efficiency. He credited assistant Scott Arniel for the penalty kill’s success: “[Arniel] has done a real nice job. … That’s why we didn’t blow up everything.” He thinks the Capitals’ third defensive pair and top penalty-killing pair of Zdeno Chara and Nick Jensen “has been an excellent pair for us.”
On power forwards coming out of the game, Laviolette said that “There are still a lot of good power forwards in the league.” He added that forward Tom Wilson, who earned an assist, an even rating, and eight hits in 18:32 of playing time Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Penguins, “adds a little bit of physicality” and is unique in his offensive and defensive styles. Laviolette thinks Wilson has had a great start to this season as the 26-year-old has one goal and three points through three games.
Regarding defensemen Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Jonas Siegenthaler, who did not play the first two games of the season, Laviolette said that “I do believe those two players not playing are NHL defensemen.” Though, he added that he does not think he wants to take anyone out at the moment so Van Riemsdyk and Siegenthaler will both have to be patient. Laviolette told the media that he wants to push the forwards defensively and “the defensemen have done a good job.”
By Harrison Brown