“He Definitely Gave Us An Opportunity”: Vitek Vanecek Earns Praise From Teammates, Head Coach Peter Laviolette After Strong Performance in 1-0 Loss to Islanders

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If one looked at Washington Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek’s statistics from the team’s Tuesday night game against the New York Islanders, it would seem at first glance that the visiting Caps came away from Long Island with a victory.

Given the stat line from Vanecek, it would likely surprise those not aware of the outcome that the Capitals fell by a 1-0 score. Despite this, the rookie goaltender received heavy praise from teammates and his Head Coach alike after another impressive performance in 2020-21.

In a very tight game, the former second-round pick recorded 38 saves on 39 shots against, for a Save Percentage of .974, including some key stops at interval points of the game. The performance continued an impressive rookie campaign for the 39th overall pick in 2014, in which he has compiled a 15-7-3 record, a Goals-Against Average of 2.64, Save Percentage of .911, and one shutout, which rank first, second, second, third, fourth, and tied-second among the four rookie goaltenders with at least 20 Games Played in 2020-21.

Vanecek’s performance received high praise from teammates and Head Coach Peter Laviolette after the game. Center Lars Eller credited Vanecek with keeping the Caps in the game, saying, “He played as well as we could ask for. We’ve got two great goalies to rely on and we’re lucky to have them…They’re [Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov] both capable of playing at a very high level, I wouldn’t want to be the one to have to make the choice”.

Laviolette was full of praise for his rookie netminder, telling the media after the game, “I thought he made some big saves. At the beginning there was a couple scrambles in the first three or four minutes that gave him a couple good opportunities, he made some big saves, he certainly made some big saves off the rush, so he definitely gave us an opportunity”.

Vanecek has seen the bulk of starts and game action for the Capitals this season, largely due in part to Samsonov’s time on the COVID-19 protocol list early in the season, and also in part to his strong performance. The Caps’ young netminding duo have a combined Save Percentage of .906 this season, with two shutouts between them (one each). With the Capitals in a race for the MassMutual East Division title with the Islanders, the team will need both goaltenders to continue playing consistently as the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs fast approach.

By Michael Fleetwood

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. His favorite player became former Capital Nate Schmidt after he met Schmidt in a Hershey hotel while in Hershey PA to see the Bears play, shortly after Schmidt was injured during a conditioning stint. Michael is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Orioles, and enjoys photography, watching WildEarth TV's SafariLive live safaris, and watching animals in his spare time. (Photo by Adam Vingan in 2014 at the Capitals Development Camp).
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