Laviolette Indicates Capitals Goaltending Competition Is Wide Open…Again: “We’ve Got Games Down The Stretch For A Push For Somebody To Make A Case”

It’s no secret that Washington Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek has struggled in recent games. After turning in an excellent month of March which saw him rise to the top tier of the league in most statistical categories, Vanecek has now given up nine goals on 41 shots faced for a .820 save percentage in his last two starts. Vanecek has also seen a significant spike in rebound shot attempts against him in recent games.

In Vanecek’s defense, the sudden downturn has come against two of the league’s best teams – the Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild. Regardless, Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette is expecting Vanecek to return to his March form. In the meantime, it appears that Laviolette has (re)opened the door to the team’s starting goaltender competition.

”I think that there are peaks and valleys in everybody’s career, and certainly there’s peaks and valleys inside of a player’s season as well,” said Laviolette following the team’s practice on Monday.

“Just talking with Vitek yesterday, we’re looking for him to get back, dialed into where he was. He was really good and really strong for us for a long period of time, almost from January 1st on. In the games that he got when he wasn’t injured, he did a really good job in net.”

Laviolette also told the media on Monday that both goaltenders will get ice time in the remaining 13 games of the regular season and that he hopes one of them will grab the reins before the start of the postseason.

“We’ve got games down the stretch for a push for somebody to make a case. They’ll probably both continue to get games,” said Laviolette.

“It’s kinda always been a two-team tandem. I’m looking for somebody to push forward out of that two-team tandem and be the guy that grabs it and grabs the crease and keeps it,” added Laviolette.

“I think it’s important. I’d like to have a guy that has emerged, move forward from that group. They’re both good goaltenders but you want somebody to really take hold of it. There’s an opportunity for them down the stretch here.”

For the season, Vanecek is 17-11-5 with a 2.60 goals against average and a .911 save percentage in 36 appearances. Ilya Samsonov is 19-9-4 with a 2.95 goals against average and a .899 save percentage, also in 36 appearances.

It’s uncertain who will get the start in goal for the Capitals when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, but it will likely be Ilya Samsonov’s turn. Then the two netminders will likely split the Capitals’ weekend set of matinee games against the Penguins on Saturday in Pittsburgh and the Boston Bruins on Sunday in Washington.

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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10 Responses to Laviolette Indicates Capitals Goaltending Competition Is Wide Open…Again: “We’ve Got Games Down The Stretch For A Push For Somebody To Make A Case”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I would normally say that two clunker games is not enough to reopen the competition, but Vanecek has shown signs of wobbling, statistically, in his has 10-12 games. It can’t hurt to apply some additional “inspiration” to both goaltenders right now.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Two seasons and it’s basically status quo.

  3. steven says:

    Our goalies are what they are…..average. They have some good games and some bad games. With that in mind how much do you pay Samsonov this summeror do you trade him come draft time? I honestly can say I dont see where he is worth $2 mil for his body of work so far. VV is in the same boat in needing a new contract this summer but he will come at a much cheaper price. maybe it is time to work out a sign and trade deal with Samsonov and go with VV and whoever next year.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      All good points, and definitely a big decision to be made with Sammy. I think there is a decent chance they will give him at least another season, only because of the extra time they seem to give first round draft picks – see Lucas Johansen.

  4. Pat Leonard says:

    I grew up in Verdun, Quebec a “Hot Bed” for good hockey players not far from Scotty Bowman. I was a good forward, defenseman and Back-up Goalie. Old days folks use to say I was the best goalie in the league but my Dad had other thoughts after a couple of pucks in the face. A rule of the Thumb U never carry 2 young goalies, same issues that the Penguins had. Upper management caused this issue not the coach. Also, played around the Beltway for teams in Va and Md. Pat

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      First off, greetings Pat! Thanks for chiming in with your valuable perspective.

      It makes sense, to never go with two youngsters. There is no mentor on the team. And I agree, this was something that was left on Laviolette’s plate. He’s had his hands tied somewhat.

  5. novafyre says:

    Wow! Look how much better the Caps became at the trade deadline. They really filled gaps and solved problems, didn’t they.

    Ted does not want to break up the Cup core. Understandable. You have some Hall of Famers there. But that spills over into all the Caps decisions — trades, contracts, ice time, style of play. We have a veterans’ GM and a veterans’ coach.

    Let me quote from a recent article on Gabby: The biggest difference since Boudreau arrived has been the Canucks’ play on special teams. Boudreau’s high-pace style of play has led to Vancouver’s young superstars finding their scoring touch again. While the star players will get most of the headlines, Boudreau has also helped players in the bottom-six re-find their game. The players are playing better, and more importantly, the fans love him.

    The Caps and Laviolette are turning off the fans that I have talked to and based on comments I see posted. It’s not just the losses, but in general the style of play. We’ve gone from Young Guns to old and predictable. The problem is the entire Caps organization, not just who is in net.

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