Review Of Vitek Vanecek’s And Ilya Samsonov’s Play After The First 26 Games Of the Capitals’ Season


We are now 26 games into the Washington Capitals 2o21-22 season. The team is 16-4-6 (38 points) which is good enough for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

With a little more than 30% of the regular season now in the books, it’s time we take our second in-depth look at the Capitals goaltenders and their level of play through the first third of the season. [Our first analysis of the season conducted after 12 games can be found here.]

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

The Basics

The first table presents the basic stats for each goaltender through the first 26 games of the Capitals season.

Ilya Samsonov has gained quite bit of steam since our last analysis conducted after the first 12 games. He now has the better won-loss record, save percentage and goals against average. He’s started an even split on the road and at home while Vanecek has started more games at home.

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.

Samsonov has received the better goal support, and by a significant margin. In 12 games Vanecek was backed by 40 goals for, or 3.33 goals for per game. Samsonov has received 57 goals for in 13 games played, for a 4.38 goals for per game average.

Advanced Stats

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

We begin to glean a little more insight and understanding of the level of player for each goaltender with the aforementioned stats. Samsonov is seeing more shots per game and has a higher expected goals against average per game so far this season, but has a slightly better goals against per game average at five-on-five.

Samsonov also has the better goals differential (xGA-GA) but Vanecek has the better high-danger goals against average and high-danger save percentage at five-on-five.

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 opposing goaltenders with a better save percentage and goals against average.

The next table presents the average statistics for opposing teams entering games against each goaltender.

Once again Samsonov has faced teams with slightly better possession metrics and better winning percentages, but Vanecek has faced teams with a slightly better shooting percentages.

Game Data For Opposition

The next table presents the average game stats for opposing netminders when facing each of the Capitals goaltenders at five on five.

Opposing netminders have seen more shots but received less goal support than netminders that faced Samsonov. Netminders have also had worse goal differentials (xGA-GA) when facing Samsonov.

The Big Picture

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

Both Vanecek and Samsonov are in the upper right quadrant in save percentage and goal differentials (xGA-GA) at five-on-five. Vanecek has a .931 save percentage and a 1.67 goals differential at five on five. Samsonov has a .919 save percentage and a 0.77 goals differential at five-on-five.

The next graph plots the same data but for all situations (power play, penalty kill, etc.). [Click to enlarge]

Here Samsonov has the better numbers, as he remains in the upper right quadrant within the Division while Vanecek’s stats suffer in all situations.

Summary

It’s clear that Ilya Samsonov has been the better goaltender in the last 10 games or so, but he’s also received better goal support when he starts and he has faced slightly weaker competition.

It’s also clear that Samsonov has assumed the number one starter’s role over the last two weeks or so,  but like all things hockey, that could change.

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 passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Civil Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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