Samsonov, Vanecek Are An Underappreciated Tandem

Posted December 11, 2021

Ilya Samsonov (Caps Outsider)

As we approach 30 games through the season, it’s plausible to say that in Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov, the Washington Capitals might have one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL.

There are probably close to a dozen or so goalies better than each of Vanecek or Samsonov individually, but as a tandem, they have both been solid night in and night out, with goals against average right around 2.50. Their combined average GAA and save percentage would place them steadily in the top 12 of the league.

On the “Caps, This Morning” podcast with broadcaster John Walton, General manager Brian MacLellan said “Both have made progress since November. Samsonov’s confidence level has shot way up. Vanecek [has] been real solid. We feel good where they are both at and think they can still improve and become more consistent.”

The key to their stellar partnership is that coach Peter Laviolette can confidently put both goalies in net and know the team has a chance to win. In fact, Samsonov has gone 11-2-1, and Vanecek is 5-3-5.

To put into perspective, some of the top teams in the league this season, like the Lightning, Blues, and Ducks, have solidified number one goalies and see dramatic shifts of efficiency between their top two netminders — especially in the wins column.

The Caps have another luxury here as well — one goaltender does not have to get overworked and play 70-75 percent of the games. Instead, they can achieve success with a genuine 50/50 split.

And both guys seem to build off of each other’s performance. When Vanecek was superior early on in the season, Sammy accepted that fact and improved his play from it.

“I understand the start of the season Vitek was playing better than me… Every practice, people are saying ‘You’re doing good, you’re doing good. Keep working, keep working,” Vanecek told reporters after his recent string of stellar performances.

Not to mention both guys have been called to action and won games with an ever changing lineup in front of them. The ability for them to battle through adversity, both at young ages, tells a lot.

By themselves, they may not be “elite,” but together, Vanecek and Samsonov’s solidness as a tandem is a winning formula for the Capitals.