Coach Peter Laviolette was purposely vague. The Washington Capitals coach doesn’t see any reason to tip his hand, unveiling how the lineup will look before he must.
But even as Laviolette shied away from providing any details of what the lineup might be come Monday night, when Washington faces the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of the opening-round series, Craig Anderson appears primed to start in net.
The 39-year-old goaltender filled in for rookie Vitek Vanecek midway through the first period of the eventual 3-2 overtime win in Game 1. Anderson had appeared in four regular-season games, mainly spending his time on the taxi squad. But when the Capitals needed to replace Vanecek — who left with a lower-body injury — Anderson stepped in admirably.
He recorded 21 saves with a .955 save percentage Saturday night, and he was the first goalie off the ice during Monday’s morning skate — an indication that he’s the starter Monday. According to NHL.com, the four goalies at morning skate were Anderson, Pheonix Copley, Ilya Samsonov and Zach Fucale.
Laviolette said Vanecek is still day-to-day with his lower-body injury, but the Capitals have belief in their depth at the position, especially after Anderson’s strong performance in a pinch.
“He came in last game and did exactly what he had to do,” winger Anthony Mantha said. “We won the game, so at the end of the day, it’s a bonus for him, for us, and hopefully we can do the same thing tonight. Hopefully he plays great hockey.”
As for Samsonov, who was the presumptive starter heading into the year, he’s nearing a return. Samsonov came off the NHL’s coronavirus protocol list Saturday, but he’s only recently returned to practice. Center Evgeny Kuznetsov was taken off the coronavirus protocol list Sunday.
Both were skating at Monday’s practice, but Laviolette didn’t indicate when a return would be possible — or prudent — after the time away from the ice.
“That’s a real positive for us that they’re out there,” Laviolette said. “We’re working through things with the lineup. It’s great to have them out there, though.”