The Washington Capitals had a tough decision to make over the offseason as they faced questions about the future and direction of the team, and part of that was what to do about goaltending. And after consideration, the team decided to revamp its goaltending, and as part of that, they traded Vitek Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils for draft picks. And so far, it’s worked out well for New Jersey and the Czech netminder.
Vanecek has been clutch for the Devils and has taken over as the new starter with Mackenzie Blackwood out. Through 17 games, he is 12-2-1 with a .922 save percentage and 2.10 GAA. His SV% ranks sixth in the league, and his GAA ranks third.
And, while his numbers have earned him praise from his teammates — Jack Hughes called him a “beast” — fans and critics alike, the 26-year-old is just happy that the reception’s been positive.
“I am so happy they like me, and they are really nice to me, so thank you so much,” Vanecek said to the crowd in an on-ice interview after his 3-0 shutout win over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
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He also described himself as a “funny guy” when asked to describe his playing style as he becomes a fan favorite in Newark. And, in his postgame interview, he credited the team effort for NJ’s success so far as the club leads the Metropolitan Division.
“It’s not just me, you know? The team playing really good. I’m just happy I can be here,” he said.
While Washington has seen Vanecek, as well as Ilya Samsonov, do well with their new clubs, the team has been happy with its new goalie situation. General manager Brian MacLellan said the team “ran out of time to wait” for the young duo of Vanecek and Samsonov to find consistency in their respective games, given the Stanley Cup window was closing.
Now, Darcy Kuemper is leading the charge, and he’s been solid with a .916 save percentage. Also, Charlie Lindgren, the new backup, has come in clutch and is doing what he can to help the team too. He has a .895 SV%, but his stats are not reflective of his play, which has been solid for the injury-riddled Capitals. Kuemper is currently day-to-day, so Lindgren has assumed the starting duties, with Hunter Shepard backing up.