Eller confident in both Vanecek, Samsonov as playoffs near

Ilya Samsonov

The Capitals have begun to hit a stride as of late, as the club has defeated playoff-bound teams Colorado, Pittsburgh, Boston and Tampa Bay all in the past few weeks.

But as the Capitals gear up for another postseason run, one main question stands out: will goaltenders Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov play well enough for Washington to make another run at the Stanley Cup?

Inside the locker room, the players have confidence in the two netminders, at least according to Lars Eller.

"I can tell you this: all the players on the team have faith in Vitek and Sammy to elevate their game and to play their best when we need it," Eller said Thursday on the Sports Junkies.

Both Samsonov and Vanecek have had their hot and cold stretches this season. Lately, Samsonov has been the main netminder. His performance earlier this week against Colorado was the type of play the Capitals will need from him during the postseason. Samsonov's putrid outing against Toronto last week is not.

The beauty of the postseason, according to Eller, is that each round is a best of seven series -- giving each team a little room for error.

"The thing with playoff series is you don't really need to play at your very best every single game," Eller said. "I know how that sounds, but you just need to take four out of seven."


Eller understands that whoever is in goal for the Capitals, whether it be Samsonov or Vanecek, won't have their A-plus stuff every game. But when the two netminders do play their best hockey, the Capitals winger understands the importance to win those games.

"There's going to be games over the course of playoffs where you're just not going to have it. You're going to have an off game here or there. But the games where you're playing well, those are the games you need to win," Eller said.

"Because there are going to be games where you just don't have it and things aren't going your way. You can still win the series if you lose a game or two, or even three. But the ones that are good have to be really good."

In both Samsonov and Vanecek, Eller believes both goaltenders have proven they are capable of carrying the squad come playoff time.

"We've seen that both of those guys have that level, but it's too much to ask to have it every single game. No one has that," Eller said. "We just need four out of seven and we have all the faith that those two together, in combination, have what it takes."

How far the Capitals go in the postseason isn't only based on goaltender play, either. It's no secret Washington's offense must come alive and find ways to put the puck in the back of the net against some of the league's premier goaltenders.

Over the past month, the Capitals have played some of their best offensive hockey. With the playoffs just around the corner, the offense is peaking at the right time. Yet, Eller feels there's still another dimension the group can tap into moving forward.

"I still like to think we have an extra gear offensively. But I do think we have played some of best hockey of the year here in the last two weeks," he said. "I feel like we can play any kind of style. We can play physical, we can play the skill game. We have a lot of different strings to play on [for] whatever game is presented, whoever we may meet down the line here. That's what makes me really confident about our team."