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Where will Vitek Vanecek play next season?


Where will Vitek Vanecek play next season?

Goaltending prospect Vitek Vanecek, taken by the Capitals in the second round of the 2014 NHL draft (39th overall), likely will be leaving the Czech Republic to play for the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL next season, Caps goaltending coach Mitch Korn said Thursday.

“There was a discussion of leaving him there, but I think the majority of us felt that the sooner we can acclimate him to North America and he becomes able to communicate, the sooner we can start to make more progress,” Korn said, “and I’d rather start that now than later.”

Vanecek, 19, spent most of last season with Benalky of the Czech Republic’s second-tier league, where he had a 2.24 GAA and .925 save percentage in 20 games. He also played two games with Liberec Bill Tygri of the top Czech League and represented his country in the World Junior Championships.

“I think (South Carolina) is the best place for him to start as a 19-year-old,” Korn said. “We want guys to have success at every level they play at. We don’t want them treading water; we want them swimming ahead.”

Vanecek speaks little English and Korn found the best way to communicate with him last season was through Czech League goaltending partner Jan Lasak, a Slovakian netminder who was drafted by the Nashville Predators in 1999 and worked with Korn in the Predators organization.

“Jan has kept me informed throughout the season,” Korn said. “It’s nice to have spies throughout the world. It’s hard to communicate with Vitek because his English has been an issue. It is getting better.”

Korn said the improvements he’s seen in Vanecek’s game over a calendar year have been dramatic.

“He’s way better,” Korn said. “Last year when he came over here the proverbial deer-in-headlights probably comes to mind. I can just imagine picking myself up and dropping myself into a country that speaks no English and having to perform being that young.”

Korn said Vanecek is now exhibiting better balance, better rebound placement and better quickness in the crease than he showed at last year’s development camp.

“I often joke that when you take the SATs the second time you’re no smarter, but you’re results are better and they should be because we all have a learning curve.”

Following his season in the Czech Republic, the Capitals flew Vanecek to Hershey to spend 12 days working out with the Bears and taking English lessons. He is also taking English lessons this week.

Meanwhile, the Capitals’ 2015 first-round draft pick, Ilya Samsonov, is working out with his KHL team, Mettalurg Magnitogorsk, which is why he is not at development camp. Samsonov stands 6-foot-3, 201 pounds and was the first goalie taken in this year’s draft. Korn said he has only seen Samsonov on video, but likes what he sees.

“He’s an ominous body and for a big man he moves exceptionally well,” Korn said. “And there’s a thing that we call goalie sense. It’s not where the puck is, it’s where the puck’s going, and the guys that are really good know where the puck’s going, whether it’s off the stick to the net or off the stick to another option.

“He seems to have really solid goalie sense. The speed of the game requires great processing and he seems to possess that. But you never really know I until you own  it, and until I get to know him first-hand I’m projecting.”

Speaking of goaltending, Hershey Bears coach Troy Mann said he is preparing to lose goalie Philipp Grubauer to the Capitals and accept veterans Justin Peters and Dan Ellis as his two goalies in Hershey next season.  

“From a coaching perspective I don’t think (Grubauer) has anything left to prove at the American Hockey League level,” Mann said.

As for Peters and Ellis, Mann said both are quality goalies and quality people.

“We’ll see how we have to handle it,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a challenge for (goaltending instructor) Scott Murray with potentially two older, veteran type of goalies. It’ll be a bit of a balancing act there. If you can’t be in the NHL I would think Hershey’s a pretty good spot with what I would consider an NHL atmosphere in the building.”

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line


Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.


PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."