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Silber: Capitals Win In L.A. Could Be Turning Point That Sparks Samsonov

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Capitals netminder Ilya Samsonov

Ilya Samsonov’s start to the season wih the Washington Capitals hasn’t gone completely according to plan. However, the team’s Wednesday night 2-0 shutout victory over the Los Angeles Kings could be exactly what he needs to turn things around.

At times, it seemed the Capitals’ tilt with the Kings was more of a game of chess than it was a game of hockey. Both teams played a defensive-minded game for the most part, with the majority of high-danger shots and chances coming in the final 20 minutes of play. And when it came down to it in the end, Samsonov was a major reason the Capitals escaped with a win.

The 24-year-old came up huge with a few highlight-reel stops. He appeared composed between the pipes and dazzled with 34 saves, and he became the first goalie in team history to record a shutout against the Kings in L.A.

Samsonov moved well in the net and showed quick reaction time and strong lateral movement, while also maintaining good position and tracking the puck well. He also controlled his rebounds and was aggressive in net and used his flexibility and speed to shut down the Kings’ top players.

“I think that he’s [been] looking for that game, too. So it was nice for him to come in… you’ve got be dialed in,” head coach Peter Laviolette said postgame, adding, “He always seemed like he was in control… I thought it was a really strong performance by him and good for him. Certainly good for our team.”

Not only was the game a turning point for Samsonov on a personal level, but it also bolstered his numbers tremendously He is now 5-0-1 through seven games this season, and his save percentage rocketed from a .894 to a .914.

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And though it was his second shutout to date, it was by far the best performance of the young season so far and arguably, one of the best of his young career.

“I think more important, this is more team win… Everybody helping me. It’s a nice game,” Samsonov told reporters on Thursday. “It’s an important two points. I think I need to play like that every night, you know?”

With his numbers back in a good place (and his SV% back over .900), Samsonov has the opportunity to build off that game and carry that strategy forward. He is starting to find what works for him; it’s just a matter of remaining consistent and being able to maintain that level of play. That’s something that the Russian netminder has struggled with early on in his career so far.

He said the key is not only working with Scott Murray and the coaching staff but also maintaining a positive mentality and finding confidence. And right now, he says he’s on the right path.

“It was important game for me… I think I change my next page,” Samsonov said postgame. “This may be my next page because my start in season is not too great. I will believe, I will better.”

Right now, the Capitals goaltending situation is still very much within reach for both Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, who had a strong start to the season but is still looking to show more consistency. Looking at the L.A. game, it was a vital one for Samsonov, who is on a one-year “prove it deal” and needed to make a statement following Zach Fucale’s strong showing in his call-up early in November.

Samsonov did just that, and now, it’s up to him to take from this game and run with it.

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