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After guiding the Colorado Avalanche to their first Stanley Cup championship in over two decades, goaltender Darcy Kuemper entered the free agent market last summer as the top netminding name available to prospective clubs. It was there that the Washington Capitals, in need of a goaltending overhaul, inked the new champion to a five-year contract.
As the Caps prepare to take on the Avalanche on Tuesday, January 24, it also marks Kuemper’s return to Colorado for the first time since departing the Avs last year. Before the start of the regular season, NoVa Caps examined the expectations Kuemper faced as he entered his first campaign as a member of the Capitals. In it, we looked at the numbers the former Minnesota Wild draft pick put up om his final season in the Mile High City.
In 57 Games Played (57 starts), the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native went 37-12-4, with a Goals-Against Average of 2.54, five shutouts, and a .921 Save Percentage.
As noted by NoVa Caps’ Harrison Brown at the time: “…At five-on-five, Kuemper earned a .928 save percentage, a 2.26 goals-against average, a 4.33 goals-saved above average, and a .863 high-danger save percentage. He also finished with an .879 save percentage and a 2.32 goals-saved above average on the penalty kill. Kuemper posted at least a .920 save percentage and a 2.56 goals-against at most in each of the last five seasons.”
In Kuemper and backup Charlie Lindgren, Head Coach Peter Laviolette has two reliable options in the crease, something the previous two campaigns with an inexperienced tandem failed to produce.
Through 31 Games Played (31 starts), Kuemper has a record of 14-12-4, a .917 Save Percentage, and 2.55 Goals-Against Average; in addition, the 32-year netminder’s five shutouts on the season lead all NHL goaltenders. At even-strength, Kuemper has a .921 Save Percentage, an .885 when the Caps are short-handed (an from his final .872 Save Percentage last season and better than his career-average of .878); he also has a High-Dnager Save Percentage of .850.
Kuemper’s play has been all the Caps’ brass could have hoped for and then some and certainly hasn’t looked like a goalie who has played a solid amount of hockey in the past 18 months, as we outlined ahead of last season:
“Over the past year, Kuemper has played a lot of hockey, a combined 73 games between the regular season and postseason. Whether that workload has any impact to start 2022-23 remains to be seen, however it is certainly something to be mindful of going in.
Situationally, Kuemper has proven to be a solid performer in most situations, with a career .935 Save Percentage when it comes to having the man-advantage, and .922 mark at even-strength (he finished last season with a .923 even-strength Save Percentage). Kuemper’s .872 Save Percentage while shorthanded last season is .05 points lower than his career .877, however the defense in front of him will surely have some impact on these figures as well. In High Danger situations, Kuemper has also struggled since the statistic was first tracked in 2016-17, sporting a .847 Save Percentage.”
Overall, Kuemper has stepped into his new home with a confidence and consistency that has oftentimes made a big difference in games for his club. At this point of the 2021-22 season, Kuemper owned a 21-5-2 record, .915 Save Percentage, and one shutout on the season.
Along with current Washington teammate Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Kuemper received his Stanley Cup ring from the Avalanche during their visit to D.C. earlier this season.
“It’s definitely different being back in the building [Ball Arena] “, Kuemper said after the team’s morning practice, “…It’s going to be a lot of fun..I’ve played against old teams before, so you kind of know the drill, it’s not too bad.”
“Definitely different being back in the building and looking forward to the game. It’s going to be a lot of fun, it feels good to be back.”
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 23, 2023
By Michael Fleetwood