It is no surprise that that the Washington Capitals are looking for a more experienced and consistent goalie as the playoff approaches. The core of the team is only getting older and the fans would love to see another run at the Stanley Cup.
Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018, the Capitals have faced three first round exits in a row. Losing to Carolina in 2019, the Islanders in 2020, and the Bruins in 2021. In all three series, the Capitals entered the matchup as the higher seed. It is evident that the past few seasons have disappointed fans, ultimately falling short of expectations.
This current season, one area of improvement would be the goalie situation. Though both of the Capitals goalies are young and have a bright future ahead of them, they lack the consistency and stability that a Stanley Cup winning team needs (at this current moment).
The first half of the Capitals young goalie duo is Vitek Vanecek. The 26 year old Czech goalie was drafted in 2014 by the Capitals in the second round. Since then he had time to develop his goaltending skills in the Czech league, the ECHL with (Capitals Affiliate) the South Carolina Stingrays, and the AHL with (Capitals Affiliate) Hershey Bears).
Last season, Vanecek made his debut in the NHL with an impressive record of 21-10-4 as he split starting time with teammate Ilya Samsonov. Vanecek had impressive individual statistics, considering it was his rookie year with an GAA of 2.69 and a SV% of .908.
This season however he has regressed with his consistency in goal, with a record of 10-7-5 (at the time of this post). Though both his GAA of 2.36 and SV% of .915 show improvement, Vanecek’s record does not look as great compared to his rookie season.
The second half of the Capitals young goalie duo is the 25 year old Ilya Samsonov. The Russian goalie was drafted in the first round in the 2015 NHL draft. Samsonov joined the capitals in the 19/20 season as a backup to Brayden Holtby.
Prior to joining the Capitals, Samsonov was in the KHL, and had time with (Capitals Affiliate) Hershey Bears in the AHL.
Samsonov’s stats in his first two seasons are displayed here in the chart below.
These statistics are quite impressive for a young goalie with little professional experience at the highest level, and they showed development, even though his sophomore year regressed statistically in comparison to the first year.
However in the current 21/22 season, Samsonov currently has a record of 17-9-3, GAA of 2.93, and a SV% of .901.
Though these statistics need to be taken into account that the Capitals as a whole have struggled this season, Samsonov has lacked consistency and stability.
These key attributes come with experience, but the fundamental issue here is that the Capitals are in a decline due to age. Thus needing to take their opportunity now.
When the Capitals won the Stanley Cup in 2018, Braden Holtby was the number one goalie in Washington. His time in DC was cherished and beloved by fans. However, due to salary cap issues and two young prospect goalies on the rise, he eventually left to the Vancouver Canucks.
After struggling in Vancouver, in his first year, his final year of the contract was eventually bought out and he signed a one year, two million dollar contract with the Dallas Stars.
Though the Stars are still in their own playoff hunt, given the Stars’ rising goalie talent Jake Oettinger, who is already splitting time with Holtby will probably take over the number one goalie position. Holtby could be a potential player that the stars could sell this trade deadline.
Holtby has the experience, and has bounced back from his down year in Vancouver, with a record of 9-10-1, GAA of 2.78, and SV% of .912.
Come playoff time, the Capitals are aware of how Holtby can keep his team in the game, and hold his own between the pipes. Additionally, given Holtby’s low cap hit, it is a move that is possible, even with the Capitals with their noses against the cap ceiling.
In conclusion the Capitals young goalie core is still inexperienced, and this lack of experience could cost the Capitals another run at the Stanley Cup.
With the core’s opportunity to win another championship dwindling down, it might be the right move to pull the trigger and bring a goalie who knows how to win, and carries that confidence and stability that they need.
Who else better then the guy who did it the first time?