Capitals

The goalie competition for Capitals' No. 2 spot officially on

Capitals

As Peter Laviolette prepares for his first training camp as head coach of the Capitals, the team's goaltending situation is suddenly a major question mark. The loss of Henrik Lundqvist has created a competition for the backup role behind Ilya Samsonov and there is no one else of Lundqvist's pedigree for Washington to choose.

Even so, Laviolette says he has confidence in the team's current options.

"We've got pieces that we're really excited to get into training camp and see with the goaltenders, the young goaltenders that we have in place as well as bringing in a guy like Craig Anderson with his experience and adding him to the mix," Laviolette said on a video conference Tuesday. "I think it's going to be a great battle through the course of the training camp."

While we may not know who the No. 2 will be, Laviolette did indicate that Samsonov was entrenched as the No. 1.

It may have been wishful thinking to believe the 38-year-old Lundqvist could challenge to be the No. 1. With him gone, none of the other goalies come close Samsonov in terms of his skill level.

"Certainly Samsonov being part of the team, having a little bit of experience, his pedigree of who he is, we're excited to get him back and healthy and to show what he can do in training camp," Laviolette said.

Samsonov will have plenty to prove over the course of the season, but the more pressing issue at the moment is who will be his backup?

 

There are three candidates for the job. Vitek Vanecek and Pheonix Copley are the prospect netminders looking to make the jump to the NHL. Copley served as the backup in 2018-19, but Vanecek beat him out for the job in the 2020 postseason. Laviolette said he expects the young goalies to "go into camp and battle it out a little bit."

The team also added veteran Anderson to a professional tryout agreement. 

Anderson, 39, has spent the last nine full seasons with the Ottawa Senators. He managed only a .902 save percentage and 3.25 GAA in 34 games in 2019-20. For his career, Anderson has a .913 save percentage and 2.84 GAA, but in the past three seasons, his best save percentage was only a .903.

Despite his age and his clear statistical drop the past few seasons, Laviolette compared Anderson to Lundqvist in terms of what he can bring to the team.

"I think adding a guy like Anderson, kind of the same way we're talking about Henrik," Laviolette said. "He comes to a new organization and [has] something to prove and fighting for a space and fighting for the crease. I love that. And so I think it'll be a really good battle with the players that are here and in place and then adding a guy like Anderson."

With Anderson in the fold, this sets up a three-way goalie battle in a camp with a new head coach and no preseason. It is going to be difficult for Laviolette and the coaches to get a read on exactly what to expect from each netminder in the season, but he plans on taking his time in camp to evaluate.

"There's going to be an evaluation period that goes on with this, and then we're going to have to make decisions," Laviolette said. "But we still have a lot of confidence in the people that we have in place, even though Henrik won't be with us."