After a couple of record-breaking performances and a tough game up with the Washington Capitals, Zach Fucale will continue to grow his game down with the Hershey Bears for now.
Fucale came up to Washington with Vitek Vanecek coping with a non-COVID illness. He made the team’s road trip to St. Louis and Minnesota and made the most of his time in net away from home ice.
The 26-year-old stopped all seven shots he faced after coming off the bench in relief of Ilya Samsonov against the Blues and earned his second career start on Saturday against Minnesota. He set the NHL all-time record for the longest start to a career without allowing a goal (138:17 minutes) and also dazzled with 21 saves on 22 shots, including a save-of-the-year candidate to open overtime.
Back in November, Fucale became the first netminder in Capitals history to post a shutout in his NHL debut, doing so with 21 saves in a 2-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
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However, the hot streak for Fucale came to an end on Monday against Boston. Thanks to a number of late penalties in the first period, the Bruins got two quick goals off 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 chances. Fucale then surrendered two more goals in the second period and was pulled for Vitek Vanecek after allowing four goals on 16 shots (.750 save percentage). Washington ultimately fell 7-3.
Despite the rough showing, Fucale still holds a solid NHL record of 1-1-1 with a .924 save percentage and 1.75 GAA.
“I’ve been around a lot of different places, a lot of different situations, teams, leagues, all those things. International as well. I think it just gave me a lot of self-awareness in my game. Awareness of what I need to perform and what are the things I do when I am at my best,” Fucale said of his experience. “Those things usually help when you’re having a tough stretch. It helps you come back quicker. But it’s all about experience. You talk about 200-something games, all these experience, I put in my bag. Just got to focus on what gives me success. Nothing more, nothing less. Just focus on the things that give me results.”
The Capitals will continue to roll with Vanecek and Samsonov for now — but given Fucale’s impact, don’t count him out just yet. He will continue to develop in Hershey and benefit more from game action rather than time on the taxi squad.