Sunday afternoon’s sport between the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators proved one factor: The Capitals want stronger goaltending.

Senators netminder — and pending unrestricted free agent — Anton Forsberg was the primary star of the sport, making 33 saves en path to a 4-1 victory. 

Contrast that with the efficiency of Capitals goalie Ilya Samsonov, who allowed 4 objectives on 26 photographs and wasn’t very sharp. That kind of efficiency gained’t be ok for the 2018 Stanley Cup champions this spring.

Barring full implosion, the Capitals are going to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, and although the group has misplaced 5 straight video games on house ice, Washington has the star energy and training employees to battle via adversity. The Caps needs to be advantageous making the dance.

But I’m not bought within the crease. Recently, it appeared as if Vitek Vanecek had taken over in purpose for the Capitals. After coming back from the vacation break in late December, he went 4-2-0 and posted a .925 save proportion over that span.

Then Vanecek suffered an upper-body damage on Feb. 1 towards the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he’s at present on the injured reserve. He has resumed skating on his personal, however there is no such thing as a timetable for his return.

That is why I’m involved. Vanecek has proved to be an excellent NHL goalkeeper, however I haven’t seen motive to consider he’s able to being an amazing beginning goalie. 

He has put within the work. Vanecek spent 5 full seasons within the AHL earlier than making his NHL debut throughout the 2020-21 season when a coronary heart situation prevented Henrik Lundqvist from suiting up for the Capitals. Vanecek ended up taking part in a shocking 37 video games in his rookie marketing campaign and posted a .908 save proportion.

Maybe he takes that subsequent step earlier than the tip of the season. Vanecek has improved yearly of his professional profession, and if he does grow to be a goaltender who usually posts a save proportion above .920, Washington’s administration will sleep a lot simpler.

That’s quite a bit to ask of a goaltender simply now coming into his personal within the NHL and with little Stanley Cup playoff expertise. Vanecek’s solely postseason look occurred in 2021. In that lone begin, Vanecek’s hamstring gave out simply 13 minutes into the sport, an damage that took months to heal.

To me, the actual fear isn’t whether or not Vanecek can maintain his personal. It’s whether or not Samsonov is ever going to play as much as his draft standing. He was taken twenty second total by the Capitals within the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and immediately labeled the inheritor obvious to Braden Holtby.

Samsonov is 24 years previous and has a profession file of 44-17-6. That’s spectacular, however his profession .906 save proportion isn’t. Neither is his -3.2 objectives saved above common (through this season.

With Samsonov, I see a fluid goaltender missing the mandatory particulars to be constant on the NHL degree. He was in a position to get away with it his rookie season in 2019-20 when opposing groups hadn’t seen him beforehand. Samsonov is of course gifted and sometimes steals video games when he’s within the zone.

When he’s not — like Sunday towards the Senators — it isn’t fairly. When Samsonov’s puck monitoring is off, he struggles on photographs simply above his pad blocker facet. He might be impatient and drop early. And sometimes his considerably aggressive depth on rush probabilities towards leaves him off the correct angle when the play strikes laterally.

It’s actually exhausting for a goaltender to be constant if he’s in perpetual movement, and that’s what occurs as soon as Samsonov’s knees hit the ice. He’s continuously pushing laterally and tends to over-correct and slide previous his vacation spot.

More than something, Samsonov hasn’t been constant. In his 10 losses this season, he has an .878 save proportion. Compare that to Vanecek, who has a save proportion of .899 within the 11 video games he’s dropped. It’s no shock that Peter Laviolette has favored Vanecek of late.

It’s a tricky situation for the Capitals. They have a goaltender in Samsonov with unrealized potential, and there’s allegiance concerned. He was a first-round draft decide. Teams don’t quit simply on them.

They even have a seasoned skilled in Vanecek who continues to enhance, however neither is a positive guess on the subject of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

So what is going to the Capitals do to shore up their crease? Do they commerce for a pending unrestricted free agent goaltender and hope a rental can carry the Stanley Cup again to Washington, D.C.? That tactic hasn’t labored since Patrick Roy was dealt from the Montreal Canadiens to the Colorado Avalanche throughout the 1995-96 season – nicely prematurely of the commerce deadline.

Do they commerce for a younger goaltender with time period left on his contract or perhaps a seasoned veteran who’s on the again facet of his profession and at present caught in a No. 2 position?

To me, each of these eventualities could be lateral strikes for the Capitals. It could be extra for optics than something — the “hey, at least we did something” routine.

There’s an previous saying in auto racing: “Fun what ya brung.” To me, that is likely to be what the Capitals are caught with. Dealing for a goaltender isn’t simple, particularly on this NHL market the place so few true No. 1’s can be found.

Do I anticipate the Capitals to make a transfer in purpose? Yes. Do I feel it should make a distinction? Probably not.

The Capitals are an excellent group that needs to be within the combine for the Stanley Cup, however they want higher goaltending. I feel it should probably have to return from inside the group. Washington wants a wholesome Vitek Vanecek and a constant Ilya Samsonov.

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