Friday, May 17

Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek struggling to search out consistency in playoffs. Sound acquainted?

To remedy their goaltending issues this previous season, the Washington Capitals signed Darcy Kuemper, a dependable veteran who helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup. And the Capitals did get higher in web: Kuemper recorded a .908 save share and allowed 2.87 targets per recreation — stats that have been (largely) higher than the 2 goaltenders he changed. 

But in a little bit of irony, Kuemper ended up sitting out this postseason because the Capitals missed the playoffs — whereas the crew’s former goalies each made the playoffs. 

Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek have performed central roles for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils this postseason, a yr after they struggled in Washington’s first-round exit to the Flordia Panthers. And but, their performances within the playoffs haven’t precisely left the Capitals regretting the choice to allow them to stroll. 

New Jersey benched Vanecek after the Devils fell behind 2-0 in a best-of-seven sequence towards the New York Rangers. And since making the change to Akira Schmid, the Devils have gained two straight to tie the sequence — with the distinction in goaltending offering an enormous enhance. Before he was benched, Vanecek allowed 9 targets and had an underwhelming .827 save share. 

Samsonov has discovered extra success — Toronto holds a 3-1 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning — however his particular person statistics aren’t significantly better. The 25-year-old is giving up 3.72 targets per recreation and holds a save share of simply .876 — second-worst amongst goalies with not less than three playoff begins this yr.

To Samsonov’s credit score, nevertheless, the Russian got here up huge in Game 3 when he stopped 36 pictures. He additionally had well timed saves in Toronto’s come-from-behind 5-4 Game 4 win. Maybe his shaky Game 1 (six targets allowed) will likely be an outlier in a protracted playoff run. 

The total letdown, although, comes after stellar seasons from each Samsonov and Vanecek. Samsonov completed the common season with a career-best .919 save share and a 2.33 targets towards common, whereas Vanecek posted a .911 save share a 2.45 targets towards common — additionally profession bests.  

With the Capitals, the most important downside for each goalies was that they weren’t capable of set up consistency.

A yr later, that also seems to be the case. 

“He’s been a great teammate,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff stated when requested how Vanecek has dealt with his demotion. “Been totally on board, totally supportive. I had a great conversation with him and I have mentioned our team — we didn’t play really well in front of him and when you look at what we’ve done the last two games, we cleaned up our defensive game. That would bode well for his game, too.” 

Oddly sufficient, these NHL playoffs are plagued by former Capitals goalies. Phillipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby’s backup on Washington’s Stanley Cup-winning crew in 2018, has performed nicely (.918 save share) and helped the Seattle Kraken give the Avalanche a combat in a sequence that’s tied 2-2. Los Angeles’ Pheonix Copley, the Islanders’ Semyon Varlamov, the Rangers’ Jaroslav Halak are all backups who performed nicely within the common season. 

Even Las Vegas’ Logan Thompson, the Golden Knights starter who hasn’t performed this postseason due to an harm, credit his rise as a result of he hung out in Washington’s improvement camp as a prospect. 

But Samsonov and Vanecek maybe maintain essentially the most relevance to the Capitals as a result of one in every of them was alleged to take the reins after Holtby departed in 2020. Samsonov, particularly, was alleged to be the Capitals’ inheritor obvious because the crew drafted twenty second total in 2015.  

That didn’t occur. Samsonov and Vanecek cut up time over the subsequent two seasons — with each going by means of stretches during which it appeared like they have been about to lastly turn out to be The Guy. Last season, Vanecek obtained the nod for the primary two video games of the Capitals’ playoffs earlier than coach Peter Laviolette benched the goaltender in Game 2 for Samsonov, who began the remainder of the sequence. 

By the top of Washington’s first-round exit that yr — with Samsonov and Vanecek combining for an .899 save share — it was clear that the Capitals wanted to enhance in web. 

“Inexperienced goalies need to learn how to be consistent, I think,” Capitals normal supervisor Brian MacLellan stated final yr. “I believe it’s an academic course of. How do you come each day and provide the identical efficiency? I believe guys that haven’t performed quite a bit need to learn to determine it out, and never all of them do and a few of them do. “

This postseason, Samsonov and Vanecek are nonetheless attempting to determine it out. 

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