After King Henrik’s unfortunate early exit, the expectation has been that 25 year old Vitek Vanecek would be the Caps’ back up goalie. With tonight being the second half of a back to back, tonight would be his first game.
Last season in Hershey, Vitek had a .917 Save Percentage.
Zdeno Chara, the Caps’ second surprise signing this offseason put up a solid game defensively, allowing 0 goals while he was on the ice and just 19.8 CA/60, adjusted, and would look to continue that tonight.
The first period was slow, ending 0-0. The Caps sure did their best to give up a goal that period, taking 3 penalties, at least 2 of which were horrible. Fortunately, Vitek Vanecek stood tall against an onslaught from the Sabres.
At the end of the period, the Caps 2nd line was in particular struggling, with Kuznetsov and Vrana at the bottom of nearly every advanced statistical category tracked by Natural Stat Trick.
The second period was far more exciting as scoring was broken open by none other than Jakub Vrana.
This goal was so strong, it actually rocketed the 2nd line to the top of most statistical categories.
The Caps PK continued to play strong, killing off yet another penalty, this time committed by John Carlson, lifting the team to 86% efficiency so far in the short season.
The 3rd period got off to a rocky start, with the Sabres tying up the score less than 40 seconds into the game.
Rasmus’ first goal of the season was the first Goal that Vanecek allowed in an NHL game.
It took 7 minutes for the Caps to respond, but boy did they, as yet another turnover by the Sabres led to an opportunity for the Caps, which Tom Wilson capitalized on, with an absolutely wicked wrister.
The next few minutes went by relatively uneventfully, as the Sabres became more and more desperate to put another one past Vanecek. Zdeno Chara gave them the opportunity they had been looking for with less than 5 minutes to go. At this point, they had a decision to make: Pull the goalie and have a 6-on-4 or leave him in and have a single man advantage. By my, very, very rough estimate, pulling their goalie would have increased their chance of scoring on that powerplay (and tying the game) from 19% to over 32%, nearly doubling their odds of slipping one past Vanecek, while very minimally hurting their chances of allowing a goal (the Caps were in full on turtle mode).
Fortunately for the Caps however, the Sabres do not have a statistician on the team, and did not pull the goalie, giving them fewer options with which to attack the Caps. The Caps held on to give Vitek his first career victory, making him the 147th goalie since 1979 to win in his first NHL decision (according to Stathead Hockey.
Here are my 3 Stars of the Game.
Third Star: Jakub Vrana (1G, 2 Shot Attempts)
Second Star: Tom Wilson (GWG, 1 Assist)
First Star: Vitek Vanecek (.968 SV%, First Career Victory).