For Washington Capitals netminder Ilya Samsonov, there have been no nights off in February — and he’s been happy with that schedule.
In wake of an injury to Vitek Vanecek, Samsonov has had to step up to the plate and take on more responsibility, while also assuming the role of the No. 1 with Pheonix Copley backing up. He has played in six straight games since the break, and with each shot against, he feels more and more sure of himself.
In his last six starts, Samsonov has posted a .919 save percentage. And, since being pulled following a lackluster start against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 2, he has a .928 save percentage in his last three outings, which include two stunning games on the road against Montreal and Nashville.
“I feel I play better and better. I get some more time on the ice. Sometimes, you know, little bit up and down right now, but you see big picture we have good progress with the team, with me,” Samsonov explained.
This recent stretch has been a major opportunity for the 24-year-old, who appeared to lose some traction in the No. 1 race for the Capitals with Vitek Vanecek starting to find his rhythm before his injury. With an increased workload, Samsonov has not only gotten to show that he can be trusted in net, but that he’s capable of playing multiple games in a row as well.
“Physically I feel good. Physical I get ready for play day by day, game by game. Everything is good,” Samsonov said. “Sometimes you know a little bit hard for mental because everything is new for you. But not crazy. I’m okay with that.”
As they continue the playoff push, the Capitals want to see more consistency from their goaltenders, especially as look to overcome recent woes and prove they can be Stanley Cup contenders. With the trade deadline just about a month away, there have been rumors that Washington is looking for an upgrade in net. Samsonov and Vanecek, however, are both trying to show that they are capable of winning hockey games.
In the end, Samsonov said he is happy about where his game is currently at, and he’s enjoying the ice time as well.
“You feel more confidence. You more and more confidence,” Samsonov said. “I really like it, the time I get. More time, I think everybody like it,” Samsonov said.
Vanecek is currently on the road with Washington as he continues to recover from an upper-body injury. In the meantime, Samsonov has started to make a bit of a case for himself. He just needs to keep it going.