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