Goalie Grades: Vanecek coasts, Bobrovsky falters late in Game 1

Vitek Vanecek and Sergei Bobrovsky

The Capitals entered the playoffs with plenty of questions surrounding their goalie situation, but Game 1 starter Vitek Vanecek delivered with a strong performance in a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers to reward head coach Peter Laviolette for his decision to put him in net.

While Washington faced some stiff competition in Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, they made enough plays to spoil the 33-year-old’s night and jump out to a 1-0 series lead.

Here’s how the goalies fared in Game 1.

Sergei Bobrovsky (FLA)

2021-22 regular season: 54 G (53 starts), 39-7-3 record, .913 SV%, 2.67 GAA

The Panthers did their goaltender no favors early in the first period, drawing three penalties including a delay of game two minutes in that gave the Capitals a 5-on-3 advantage for 61 seconds. Bobrovsky stopped three shots with his squad shorthanded, but Tom Wilson scored off a rebound just as the power play expired.

Overall, Bobrovsky had a strong first period with 15 saves — seven of on Capitals power plays. He carried that success over into the second, stopping another 15 shots with five high danger saves according to Natural Stat Trick.

Dmitry Orlov had a big opportunity to score when a puck deflected off the post to set him up for a wide-open look, but Bobrovsky went post to post just in time to prevent the puck from going through.


The Capitals then came out firing to open the third period, generating three quick, high-danger chances in the first that culminated with Evgeny Kuznetsov making a nasty move before going top shelf on a breakaway opportunity.

It would be difficult to hold that goal against Bobrovsky given the 1-on-1 situation and the same could be said for the score that put Washington ahead for good.

Nicklas Backstrom set up T.J. Oshie with a beautiful pass between the legs of a Panthers defenseman. All Oshie had to do was tap the puck in as Bobrovsky helplessly tried to cover both sides of the goal.

In all, Bobrovsky had a strong performance with 34 saves on 37 shots but the Capitals’ offense proved to be too tall a task. On a night when he was making spectacular plays, Washington’s forwards responded with heroics of their own to steal a game on the road.

Grade: B

Vitek Vanecek (WSH)

2021-22 regular season: 47 G (39 starts), 20-12-6 record, .908 SV%, 2.67 GAA

While the Capitals were peppering Bobrovsky early, Vanecek didn’t see many high-danger shot attempts for most of the first period. The goal he did allow, however, was one the 26-year-old should’ve had.

Panthers center Sam Bennett found a window between a pair of Washington defensemen and tucked the puck over Vanecek’s blocker-side shoulder with a wrister from the high slot.

Florida then jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the first minute of the second period when winger Claude Giroux took advantage of a stray puck and buried it while Vanecek was still recovering from a previous shot attempt.

Vanecek settled in from there, though the Panthers didn’t apply much pressure the rest of the period. They had two power plays and failed to record a single shot on goal on either of them as the Capitals’ penalty kill unit stood tall.

The Panthers turned up the heat in the third and forced Vanecek to make some of his tougher saves of the night. Yet he stopped them all, even after the Panthers pulled Bobrovsky with a minute left in an attempt to close the gap on the scoreboard.

Vanecek’s early goal proved to be his only big mistake of the night. He finished the game with 30 saves and the win as the Panthers failed to apply enough pressure to avoid falling to a 1-0 series deficit.

Grade: B+

All first-round games of Capitals vs. Panthers will be available regionally on NBC Sports Washington and streamed live on the MyTeams app.