Devils’ Vitek Vanecek Poised for a Bounce-Back Season


The New Jersey Devils are definitely able to compete for that elusive Stanley Cup. The prime six is without doubt one of the greatest within the NHL. Their defensive core continues to be extremely robust, they usually nonetheless have one of many deepest prospect swimming pools in all the NHL. However, there’s nonetheless one query that, to some, has but to be totally answered. That is the goaltending and whether or not or not Vitek Vanecek is the man the Devils can depend on.

Can Vitek Vanecek bounce again after a disappointing playoff? (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Vanecek is coming off among the best common seasons by a New Jersey goaltender in franchise historical past. Not solely did he change into simply the second ever to win 30 or extra video games in a season in staff historical past, however he helped the pink and black make it again to the postseason for the primary time in 5 years. He was praised for his means to make the saves that the staff wanted and got here by way of within the clutch. Unfortunately, this didn’t transition into the playoffs. To say that the netminder struggled can be an understatement.

Related: Devils’ Goaltending Still a Major Question for Next Season

He finished with a dismal 1-3 report in 4 begins. He additionally posted a poor .825 SV% and a 4.64 GAA. There’s no sugar-coating that Vanecek was removed from the place he was earlier within the season or the place he ought to have been as soon as the postseason obtained underway. His performances, together with the rise of Akira Schmid, have left many query marks about Vanecek’s future in New Jersey. There can be a ton of strain on the Czech goaltender in 2023-24. Not solely do I feel he’ll bounce again this season, however I consider he would be the most important piece to a New Jersey Cup run.

He’s Learned How to Handle a Big Workload

Last 12 months was by far essentially the most video games that Vanecek has performed in an NHL season in his brief three-year profession. He has performed increasingly every season he’s performed. There’s a possible situation that he’ll get a bulk of the begins this upcoming marketing campaign, and now that he’s had a 12 months to expertise this, he ought to be extra ready for one other lengthy season forward. Experience is such an essential facet for a goaltender, and Vanecek definitely gained that and ought to be far more able to be the No. 1 man shifting ahead.

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Another factor on the subject of the workload for Vanecek and any goaltender actually is how they deal with it from a pregame and postgame perspective. This upcoming 12 months, the Devils will play a complete of 9 back-to-backs. That’s one of the quantity of any staff within the league. There will come instances when he might probably play each video games, which might clearly improve his workload. The mindset goes to alter for No. 41 in that he can’t be overdoing issues like stretching and even pregame skating in order that he may be bodily able to go for sport time.

He’s Already Proven He Can Be a No. 1 Option

None of us knew what Vanecek was going to be final season. At first, it appeared prefer it was going to be a 1A/1B in internet for New Jersey. But because the season rolled on, he actually took over the reins and, in some ways, dominated for a stretch of time. When what he did from Oct. 25 to Nov. 21, it’s clear that he’s on his sport, he’s large. In that stretch, “the netminder had a string of 10 straight wins over the run, to set a new career-high.”

Saves like this one from Vanecek have been key to the Devils having the historic season that they did.

The Devils, as a staff, had a historic season in 2022-23. They completed with an astounding 52-22-8 report for 112 factors, setting franchise information for most wins in a season and most factors in a season. They additionally set an NHL for the most important level enchancment from the 12 months earlier than with 49. A big a part of that was certainly Vanecek, who himself set profession bests in wins, GAA and SV%. He additionally gained 18 totally different one-goal video games. The goalie proved he might be relied upon, and his teammates fed off his play to raise themselves. Despite his struggles within the playoffs, he has been capable of assist his staff make the postseason in every of his first three seasons.

Vanecek’s Lack of Playoff Success Is Not That Concerning

While this can be controversial, it ought to be talked about that Vanecek has solely began in a complete of seven video games within the playoffs. Though he hasn’t gained many and hasn’t appeared good, I don’t consider this development will proceed. Why, it’s possible you’ll ask? For one, identical to the remainder of the staff, it was a studying 12 months for one of many youngest groups within the NHL. You need to undergo rising pains earlier than you obtain Stanley Cup success.

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The second purpose is trying on the staff in entrance of Vanecek. The Devils have among the best top-sixes in your complete league. Despite dropping some key guys on protection this offseason, their defensive core continues to be very robust. The staff can provide the goaltender the help to make the saves when he must win video games. It must also be talked about that with the emergence of Schmid, Vanecek might get extra of a breather this 12 months, which might maintain him brisker within the later elements of the season.

Adin Hill Vegas Golden Knights
Adin Hill of the Vegas Golden Knights proved final 12 months that you just don’t need to be a top-flight goalie to steer a staff to a Stanley Cup (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The final purpose is that you just don’t want the most effective goalie on the market to win you a Stanley Cup. Last 12 months is a prime instance of this. Adin Hill was the fifth-string netminder on the Vegas Golden Knights to begin the season. Fast ahead to the playoffs, and he stepped up his sport a lot that he turned a vital purpose why the Golden Knights have been capable of ship the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup. Vanecek might be that man for New Jersey, and with all that’s round him, I might not be stunned if that’s precisely what occurs.

Only time will inform if Vanecek is able to take that subsequent step within the internet. Expectations can be excessive for himself and New Jersey. It’s certain to be one fascinating season forward.


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