Washington Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek stopped 39 of 41 shots he faced in the Capitals 7-2 thumping of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night. The save total was the fourth-most saves Vanecek has made in a game in his career.
The effort was just the latest in a string of strong showings for Vanecek, who has been trending upwards in 2022. Since January 1st, Vanecek’s .928 save percentage ranks fifth in the NHL. He’s started six of the past seven games for the Capitals and improved to 6-0 in March with Thursday’s victory.
”Vitek had to make some big saves and it seemed like he was busy the entire night. He had to make some big saves. He had to stay engaged in the game, and I thought he did a really good job of that,” said Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette following the game.
Vanecek was particularly strong in the first period of Thursday night’s tilt with the Blue Jackets, and that seemed to rally the team.
“There’s three or four times where I was standing up on the bench and the bench was standing up and applauding the saves there in the first period,” said Capitals right wing Tom Wilson following the game. “Those are big moments in the game that give us a chance to be able to take over, and it can be a different game if one of those goes in, so that’s a huge job well done by him.”
Capitals forward Anthony Mantha, who had both of the Capitals goals in the first period, also had high praise for the Capitals netminder.
“Unbelievable,” Mantha said following Thursday’s game. “They had a couple power plays and he was strong, as he has been the last couple months. He’s playing unreal.”
Capitals defenseman Martin Fehervary, who scored his fifth goal of the season in last nights win, also noted Vanecek’s play during the barrage of penalty kills the Capitals were required to endure early in the contest.
“He’s great,” said Fehervary. “He’s done a really great job all season. Tonight too, it was a really hard game for him; a lot of whistles tonight. It’s not easy for a goalie with a few penalties that we had to kill, and he was really, really great.”
Nearing The Top
For the season, Vanecek has the 4th best even-strength save percentage (.937%) among all NHL goaltenders with more than 500 minutes of ice time. [Click to enlarge].
Vanecek also has the league’s 6th best even-strength high-danger save percentage (HDSV%) among all NHL goaltenders with more than 500 minutes of ice time.
Vanecek’s rise to the top tier of the league’s netminders is arguably coming at the best time for the Capitals, who were recently rumored to be shopping for goaltending help prior to Monday’s trade deadline. It’s now likely that Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan will step back from that task and shift his focus to potentially acquiring a scoring forward.
By Jon Sorensen