Review Of Vitek Vanecek’s And Ilya Samsonov’s Level Of Play After The First 12 Games Of The 2021-22 Season

Photo: Patrick Smith Credit: Getty Images

We are now 12 games into the Capitals 2o21-22 season. The team is 6-2-4 (16 points) and currently sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division. With approximatey 15% of the regular season now in the books it’s time we take our first in-depth look at the Capitals goaltenders and their level of play through the first 12 games of the season. 

If you’d like to learn more about the advanced analytical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary. Statistics in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick. Let’s dive right in.

The Basics

The first table presents the basic stats for each goaltender through the first 12 games of the season.

Ilya Samsonov has the better overall won-loss record through the first 12 games of the season, however, Vancek has the better primary stats, and by a decent margin. He has also seen a higher majority of his starts occur on home ice.

Goal Support

A big part of a goaltenders won-loss record is the goal support he gets in each game. In other words, how are the Capitals fairing offensively, each time the netminder steps on the ice.

Ilya Samsonov has had the better goal support from the Capitals through the first 12 games of the season, however, only by two goals.

Advanced Stats

The next table dives a little deeper into the basic stats, and looks at shots against, the expected goals and goals differential, high-danger saves and rebound shot attempts averaged for each game he’s played so far this season.

Vanecek has had the lower expected goals against and goals allowed, and thus, has the better expected goals – goals allowed differential. Vanecek has seen far more rush shot attempts per game, nearly 2 to 1.

On the flip side, Samsonov has been better against high-danger shots so far this season, but is also giving up more rebound shot attempts per game.

Strength of Opposition

Basic goaltending stats leave out a lot of important context. First and foremost, what kind of teams has the goaltender faced to amass his record? Has he faced a majority of the top teams in the league? Or has he faced a majority of his games against cellar dwellers? The first table presents the average stats for opposing goaltenders entering (before) games against each of the Capitals goaltenders.

Samsonov has faced goaltenders with better save percentages and goals against averages so far through the first 12 games of the season, however he as also faced goaltenders with worse overall records. A bit of a dichotomy.

The next table presents the average value of possession stats, shooting percentage and team winning percentage for opposing teams entering games against each goaltender.

Vanecek has faced teams with higher winning percentages, although the first couple of starts were against teams with high winning percentages early in the season, which affects his average somewhat.

Samsonov has faced teams with higher Corsi for, expected goals for and scoring chances for. Vanecek has faced teams with a higher shooting percentage entering each game.

Game Data For Opposition

The next table presents average of game stats for opposing netminders for each of the Capitals goaltenders.

Opposing netminders have faced more shots (by Capitals) during Samsonov’s games and have given up one more goal per game on average. Opposing netminders have had high save percentages against Vanecek and the Capitals while opposing netminders have seen higher expected goals and worse expected goals – goals differential when Samsonov is on the ice.

The Big Picture

The final graphic provides a “big picture” view of how Capitals netminders are doing with respect to other goaltenders in the Metropolitan Division. The chart plots save percentage and the expected goals – goals allowed differential (xGA -GA) at even strength (5v5). [Click to enlarge].

Obviously Samsonov’s 5-on-5 numbers represent a struggling goaltender. He is last in the Metropolitan Division in both save percentage and goals differential at even strength. Vanecek was in the upper right quadrant until just recently but still has respectable numbers when compared to his fellow Metropolitan brethren.


It’s clear that the aforementioned stats match the proverbial “eye-test” for each of the Capitals goaltenders. Vanecek has amassed the overall better numbers, by far in some cases, but Samsonov has shown his strengths in certain areas as well (high-danger save percentage).

Vanecek has been the clear number one goaltender through the first 12 games, getting nearly twice as many starts as Samsonov. However, Samsonov has drawn the stronger competition. This may be the luck of the Laviolette’s asymmetric rotation, or it could be by plan. Only Laviolette and the Capitals coaches know the answer to that one.

Expect Samsonov to rebound. After tracking him since his draft day in 2o15, watching a number of his games while he was with Metallurg in the KHL and watching all of his games in Hershey, it’s become clear that Samsonov can reach an elite level. Unfortunately his “hot streaks” come after playing a series of 10-15 games in short succession. Simply put, he needs consecutive games to get hot. The question remains, will he ever get that prolonged series of starts to reach that level.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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4 Responses to Review Of Vitek Vanecek’s And Ilya Samsonov’s Level Of Play After The First 12 Games Of The 2021-22 Season

  1. Anonymous says:

    While I seriously love what Samsonov brings to the table, Vitek has been our best option in goal since early last season when he took the reins of the team due to Sammy’s off-ice issues (which some may hold against him; I try not to). It is also interesting the goal support that Samsonov is getting; despite only playing in 5 games (pulled after one period of one, resulting in a loss in OT for Vanacek), Samsonov’s supporting cast has mustered 22 goals, as opposed to 27 goals in the course of Vitek’s 9 games of record (and one pulled game). Vitek seems to be playing in games where the offense is not as hot, stifled to the point of almost equalling the goal total in the pittance of games that Samsonov has played. Given that Samsonov has also started games with a somewhat harder strength of the opposition, this is a conundrum. I’d be interested to hear what others think about this intriguing goaltending battle; if you were Lavi, whom would you pick as your #1?

  2. novafyre says:

    I want to know why Fucale has been recalled from Hershey.

    That game when Sammy was to start, then left after warmups leaving Vee in the net for 1:45, then coming back and having a bad time and Vee finishing the game. What was the real story behind that? Did that affect the Lavi-Sammy relationship? If so, how?

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