Last Tuesday, Canada played the Czech Republic in National Junior Team Development Camp in Montreal. Because the Washington Capitals had two top picks from the 2014 draft, forward Jakub Vrana and goaltender Vitek Vanecek, playing, I recorded the game to take a closer look.
Vanecek allowed six goals on 37 shots in Canada’s 6-2 victory. With so much rubber going his way, the 18-year-old Czech had more than enough chances to display his strengths and weaknesses.
Since he’s a relative unknown for Caps fans, I broke down some of the saves Vanecek made as well as some of the goals he allowed to see what the team potentially has in the future with this guy.
This one was what you call a “leaky goal.” Yes, Vanecek had to come over from one side to another (and, according to this study, NHL goalies save fewer than 70 percent of those), but as far as the transition shots go, this one by Sam Reinhart just a minute into the game was almost as easy as they get. Not very hard and not very accurate, the shot slipped between Vanecek’s arm and body, bouncing into the net.
I am of two minds about this goal. Anthony Duclair beat Vanecek five-hole, which never looks good. On the other hand, Vanecek was caught by surprise when Duclair so easily beat Czech defenseman Filip Pyrochta and tried to cover everything down low. Maybe being more agressive with a poke check would have helped on this occasion.
On this one, Vanecek “cheated” as Haydn Fleury made him believe he would pass the puck before throwing a quick wrister that found room between Vanecek’s arm and the goalpost. Yet again, the Czech D was horrible (that was a four-on-two rush given up while shorthanded– and the forwards weren’t even changing; they were just caught off guard), but it is definitely a shot that goalie can and should stop.
That was Vanecek’s first big save. The Czechs were already down 1-0. The puck took an unlucky bounce off the defenseman right in front of the goal, but the netminder not only made a save, but also allowed no second chance.
Vanecek fixed a problem of his own making here. The original shot, fired through a screening defenseman, was far from a prime scoring opportunity, but Vanecek gave up a juicy rebound right to a forward storming his crease. His recovery on the second opportunity was excellent though. Strong reflexes on display.
In another situation in which the goalie had to move right-to-left quickly, Vanecek made a fantastic save denying the tip, directing the rebound to an empty area and then making another stop to deny a second-chance opportunity.
Another great save in tight as Canada won the board battle, and there was nobody patrolling the crease. Again, no rebound given up.
It seemed like Vanecek learned a lesson from one of the videos above. This time, as Canada came storming on the rush and the shot was fired with a defenseman as a screen, Vanecek made a great glove save.
Vanecek kept track of the puck and moved tremendously despite plenty of company in the crease. The shot in the end was far from perfect, but the way he positioned himself was impressive.
Here are some conclusions based on Vanecek’s performance. Keep in mind though that one game (especially his first full game in almost a month) isn’t a representative sample of his goalie play, so these conclusions are by no means far-reaching.
- Vanecek kept the Czechs in the game for much longer than they should’ve been.
- He did it after allowing a leaky first goal. He bounced back nicely and kept Canada off the scoreboard for the next 29 minutes.
- Vanecek made plays look easy by anticipating shots. He kept up with the pace Canada had to offer, unlike most of his team.
- He’s definitely very quick, reminding of young Holtby the way he moves side to side.
- The best word to describe a game Vanecek had is “inconsistent.” He gave up some questionable rebounds and allowed a couple of bad goals.
- The trend that needs to be fixed is that sometimes, Vanecek tried to compensate shortcomings in technique with pure athleticism, which won’t work at the pro level. It is not uncommon for young goalies though.
- Either it was fatigue or a lack of focus, but Vanecek’s play regressed significantly as the game wore on. He allowed five goals in the second half of the game after being the best player on the ice in the first. Canada’s fourth goal looked like a backbreaker for Czech goalie.
- That could have been merely the coach’s demand, but Vanecek never really stickhandled the puck when it was dumped-in.
Kudos to Hockey Canada for making game available live and on-demand free.