Ilya Samsonov Is NHL’s Second “Star of the Week”

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Posted November 22, 2021

(Caps Outsider)

A strong two-game performance this week in the net has landed Ilya Samsonov a spot as one of the NHL’s three stars of the week alongside Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames, and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche.

Samsonov got the nod on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings after Vitek Vanecek had received the starting position in the two games prior.

In the game on Wednesday, Samsonov saved all 34 shots brought on by the Kings to help lift the Caps to a 2-0 win at Staples Center. Samsonov continued his impressive play on Saturday night in San Jose, saving all 22 shots against the Sharks to aid in the Caps 4-0 victory.

While it has been Vanecek who has seemingly been the Caps go-to goalie, Samsonov has played great hockey as well this season, particularly in his last two starts, making the goalie competition interesting yet again.

“Through the course of both games I think he’s had to make a few really big saves,” said coach Peter Laviolette following Saturday night’s victory. “He seems focused and dialed in.”

Samsonov came to play this past week, saving all 56 shots in back-to-back shutout victories. Despite a rocky start, Samsonov still boasts a 6-0-1 record and a .924 save percentage.

In a postgame interview following Saturday night’s victory over the Sharks, Samsonov expressed that his mentality is in a better place, and his body feels more “loose”.

“My body is more loose. [It is] much easier to move. [There is] a lot of positive[s]. I will keep working everyday,” said Samsonov. “I feel better and better. I [am] really hungry for the win.”

It is true, Vanecek has seemed to look more the part of a starting goaltender to open the season. His play has looked better, more athletic, and has had less mistakes, which is why Laviolette has rightly gone to him more.

However, Samsonov is seeming to find his groove, proving in these performances that he can be a key part of the team’s success and that he is putting a shaky start behind him. In fact, Samsonov looked pretty fantastic in his two games this week and while it is a small sample size so far this season (that will hopefully continue), it is a truly promising sight.

“I think [Samsonov] played today great. Back to back shutouts, it’s good for us,” said Alex Ovechkin of Samsonov following the Caps 4-0 win in San Jose. “I hope he’s going to play like that the rest of the year.”

Vanecek, as strong as he has played this season, is bound to have off nights. In fact, Vanecek has yet to record a shutout this season (Samsonov has three, Fucale has one). While there is not a clear starter, it is beneficial to the Caps to have both options playing at their highest level for many reasons, which is why it is a welcoming sight to see Samsonov hitting his stride.

“For us it’s very important that we have two good goalies who, if we make mistakes, they going to stop it,” said Ovechkin.

It was the brilliant play of Samsonov this week that has not only given coach Laviolette, and Caps fans, more trust in his abilities, but has rightly earned him one of the NHL’s three stars of the week, an award that will hopefully continue to boost the young netminder’s confidence.