Goaltending is one of the major question marks facing the Capitals over the second half of the season. The team came into the season with a young goalie tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek with the hopes that one would take hold of the starting job. Head coach Peter Laviolette says he saw one goalie start to do just that over the course of the last month.
"We're looking for that consistency, I think, in net, trying to see if we can get one of the guys to grab it and run with it," Laviolette told NBC Sports Washington. "Vitek, for me, has emerged a little bit in the last month as the guy that has answered the bell and his numbers are really good for the last month. ... He's finding a way to get it done."
Since Jan. 1, Vanecek has a 4-2-0 record with a .925 save percentage and 2.11 GAA. Those are definitely starting-caliber numbers and the kind of numbers you need to see from a starter in the playoffs.
Consistency, however, has been the issue, not just for Vanecek, but for all of the Caps netminders.
"I think all of our goaltenders have had their moments inside the season," Laviolette said. "There's been times when Sammy's played really well, [Zach] Fucale's come up here and played a good game or two for us, [Pheonix] Copley came off the bench and gave us a good game and Vitek's had his moments as well."
But those good moments also come with the bad which is why none of those four have cemented themselves as the starter...yet.
Clearly, however, Vanecek was starting to emerge before an injury knocked him out of the Pittsburgh Penguins game on Feb. 1. When he is able to return, the Caps will need him to pick up right where he left off. Otherwise, the team will be back to hoping one of their netminders can finally emerge before the playoffs.
"We're looking for that consistency and for somebody to grab it," Laviolette said. "As we approach the playoffs, we'd like to get firmed up in that and say this is our guy going into the playoffs."