Ilya Samsonov: 2021-22 season review

Ilya Samsonov: 2021-22 season review

Ilya Samsonov is still a goalie for the Washington Capitals.

Visualization by HockeyViz

About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows lots of information for the player over the season. A short description of each chart:

  • Ice time per game, split up by game state
  • 5-on-5 adjusted shot attempts by the team (black) and opponents (red)
  • 5-on-5 adjusted shooting percentage by the team (black) and opponents (red)

Fan Happiness Survey

About this visualization: At three times during the season, RMNB shared an open survey with fans, asking the following question for each player:

On a scale from 1 to 5, how HAPPY are you to have this player on the team?

1 means VERY UNHAPPY TO HAVE THEM ON THE TEAM
2 means UNHAPPY
3 means NEITHER HAPPY NOR UNHAPPY
4 means HAPPY
5 means VERY HAPPY TO HAVE THEM ON THE TEAM

The numbers above show the average score for the player in each survey period.


Peter’s Take

I want to begin at the end. Ilya Samsonov ended his year right, with a strong outing against the Florida Panthers, saving about one goal better than expected, including stopping 15 of 15 shots during 26 minutes of Florida’s dangerous power play. Samsonov was not the reason the Capitals got eliminated, and I suppose that’s a pleasant surprise given where we came from.

Where we came from is bad. I’ve been over the Samsonov vs. Vanecek storyline for more than a year, but the tedium continued even after I checked out.

Above is every regular season game over the past two seasons. Lines above the horizon mean the goalie saved better than expected and below means worse. Those minus-four games in red are virtually unwinnable, and you can see how there aren’t many positive red lines to make up for them.

I’m skeptical of how some analysts characterize goals with confidence. “He tracks the puck well, and has quick lateral movements.” Sure, I guess. Compared to something or whatever. But here’s one dimension where I think the poets have it right: Samsonov is a rebound factory.

Top-left here means Samsonov sees few shots, but a ton of rebounds. His ratio of rebounds to shots is 14.3 percent, behind only Quick and Bobrovsky. I don’t know if that’s the primary reason why Samsonov hasn’t distinguished himself, but it’s at least one of the reasons.

Frankly, Samsonov is one of Washington’s two mediocre goals, and it’s possible that “mediocre” is too kind an adjective.

Over at Japers Rink, the Samsonov experience has been likened to a rollercoaster, a ride off which we all want. Except the Capitals own Samsonov’s exclusivity as he’s a restricted free agent, which means it’s more likely than not we’ll see more of the guy in Caps red, and we’ll continue to hold onto the hope that he’ll become a good NHL goalie.


According to Orson Welles


Sammy on RMNB

  • Laviolette on starting Samsonov in October: “I think we’re going to give him another opportunity to grab [the number one starting spot] and run with it.”
  • In November, Samsonov pulled himself from a game against the Panthers just before puck drop.
  • Laviolette totally clearing up that last-minute exit: “We’re probably better off saying he had an issue.” Got it. Thanks.
  • In November, Samsonov recorded back-to-back shutouts. Combined 6.12 goals saved above expected.
  • By the end of the month, Samsonov was the de facto number-one goalie again.
  • In January, Samsonov got a lower-body injury at practice.
  • There was buzz that Montreal wanted to trade for him.
  • I’m just gonna put Ian’s headline here: Ilya Samsonov leaves warmups, comes back, starts, and gives up a goal in 11 seconds
  • In March: another injury in practice. If you’re keeping count, that’s three injuries in non-game situations.
  • Laviolette on something that never happened: “I’m looking for somebody to push forward out of that two-team tandem and be the guy that grabs the crease and keeps it. I think it’s important. I’d like to have a guy that has emerged and moved forward from that group. They’re both good goaltenders but you want someone to really take hold of it. There’s an opportunity for them down the stretch here.”
  • Laviolette on what has actually happened: “When you talk about our goaltending for the last couple years, both Sammy played and Vitek have gone in for stints and some. Then the other goaltender has gone in and played some. It’s really moved like that even though you say ‘I’d really like for this guy to elevate himself. And this guy hasn’t done the job.”
  • Samsonov relieved Vanecek in Game Two and started Game Three.
  • Fans chanted Samsonov’s name in Game Three.
  • MacLellan on offseason priorities: “I think our goalie decision will be our first one, and then we’re going to go from there depending on how much money we have [. . .] [Samsonov and Vanecek] have both been pretty good but not great.”

Your Turn

Are you psyched for another season of will-they-or-won’t-they with Samsonov?


Read more: Japers Rink

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