No. 2 – Vitek Vanecek
The biggest difference maker between this season and last for the Devils has easily been goaltending. General Manager Tom Fitzgerald made sure to make this team more competitive by bringing in a quality netminder. Enter Vitek Vanecek.
In just his third season in the NHL, Vitek put together a very respectable .911 SV% and 2.45 goals against average in 52 games played facing 25.6 shots per game. The goaltender also notched three assists on the year, the first of his career (not a big deal).
Vitek is the No. 2 X-Factor for the New Jersey Devils solely because goaltending is the difference between an early and a short summer. We all know what this Devils team is capable of, but it’s all for naught if the goalie can’t stop the puck.
Vitek Vanecek is also one of only a handful of Devils players to have played a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, albeit being only three games played in 2021 and 2022 for the Washington Capitals.
Facing a New York Rangers team that finished with the No. 7 powerplay (24.08%) in the league and had scored 273 goals in 2022-23 (12th in the NHL), Vitek will face the task of having to steal a game or two in the seven-game series.
If there is one question mark in this New Jersey Devils’ lineup, it’s between the pipes. In the three games the Czechia netminder played in, he was absolutely shelled. To say that any experience is good experience may not be applicable in this regard. In order for the Devs to make a statement in the playoffs, Vitek Vanecek will need to steal the show.