The Key Stat: 36, which is the number of starts Vanecek had in this, his rookie season. It was fifth-most in Caps history for a rookie, but also was accomplished in an abbreviated season. Those 36 starts in 56 games works out to 53 starts over an 82-game season, which would have been the most of any rookie goalie in Caps history. What makes this “key” is that few might have predicted he would get as many as ten starts this season with Ilya Samsonov presumed to be the number one goalie and Henrik Lundqvist signed to be co-number one/backup.
The Good: His early work. Thrust into an unexpected role as number one goalie when Lundqvist was diagnosed with a heart aliment that required season-ending surgery and Ilya Samsonov missed eight games due to COVID protocol, Vanecek helped the Caps get off to a good start in a big way. In his first seven starts he was 5-0-2, 2.78, .918. He allowed more than three goals only once in those seven games, five in a 5-4 overtime loss to Pittsburgh on January 19th.
The Bad: His post-January portion of the season. After that hot start in January, Vanecek’s performance fell off. Call it regressing to a mean, or the adrenaline rush of starting as a rookie early in the season wearing off, or hitting a wall, or teams getting a book on him, but Vanecek was 16-10-2, 2.67, .905, with two shutouts after that January start. The odd part of it was that he compiled that record facing fewer shots per 60 minutes (28.1 versus 33.8), but still, he ranked 28th of 41 goalies logging at least 1,000 minutes after January in save percenatage overall and 31st of 36 goalies appearing in at least 20 games after January in even strength save percentage (.908). And then, of course, with a chance to redeem himself, he was injured just 13 minutes into the Caps’ first game of their opening round series against Boston... season over.
The Discussion: Overall Vanecek’s rookie season, which unexpectedly thrust him into the starter’s role, was stronger than many may have predicted - so what areas of his game would you want Vanecek to focus on heading into his sophomore campaign? Is it more consistency in performance? A more robust even strength save percentage? Fewer instances like in the video above that reflect a number of problems that popped up from time to time — iffy judgment, indecision, poor stick work, miscommunication with teammates? Finally, what would it take for you to give Vanecek a 10 next season?
The Vote: Rate Vitek Vanecek below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
How do you rate Vitek Vanecek’s 2020-21 season?
This poll is closed