Zach Fucale showed a lot of potential with an impressive showing in his first NHL game for the Washington Capitals. For now, he’ll head back down to the AHL’s Hershey Bears to continue to get game action, and in the meantime, he may have given the Capitals some things to think about.
General manager Brian MacLellan announced Saturday that the team assigned Fucale to Hershey. It’s a positive sign for the team and Vitek Vanecek, who traveled on the road trip but did not dress against the Detroit Red Wings or Columbus Blue Jackets. Vanecek appeared to be hurting at the end of Monday’s 5-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. He got some work in on the ice on the road, and head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters on Friday that he’s making progress.
Washington has a scheduled day off on Saturday and will return to game action Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the meantime, the Bears are in the midst of a back-to-back and play Saturday and Sunday.
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Although he’s headed back to Pennsylvania now, Fucale made quite the statement in his debut and could give the Capitals a lot to think about going forward if he stays consistent in goal for Hershey.
In his NHL debut, Fucale stood tall and shut down the young Detroit Red Wings, bailing the Capitals out in the first part of the opening frame as they surrendered several shots on goal. He tracked the puck well, stayed in position, controlled his rebounds and made sure to close off the right areas of the net. He ultimately made 21 saves for his first NHL win and shutout, becoming the first goalie in franchise history to record a shutout in his NHL debut.
Through five games with the Bears so far, Fucale is 3-0-2 with a 1.73 GAA and .932 save percentage. In 11 games last season, Fucale led the AHL in GAA (1.80) and ranked second in save percentage (.933).
We’ll see what Washington does next, however, things could get interesting in net eventually. Ilya Samsonov hasn’t been too consistent so far, and he’s on a one-year “prove it” bridge deal this season. Vanecek (2.51 GAA, .906 SV% through nine games) is also a restricted free agent at the end of the season. If Fucale continues to impress, he could potentially steal an NHL job, something that has happened quite a bit in this league.