Rebounds in Czech? : Rebound attempts against Vitek Vanecek have more than tripled in recent games


The Washington Capitals continue to enjoy some time off after their 6-1 thrashing of the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. The team will return to practice Thursday in preparation for their next game Sunday against the top-flight Minnesota Wild at Capital One Arena.

Meanwhile, the break in action and relative calm ahead of the start of the Capitals’ busy final month of the 2021-22 season provides a good opportunity to assess some aspects of the Capitals’ game. Today we take a look at a recent trend in rebound attempts against goaltender Vitek Vanecek.

Vanecek had a good March after returning from injury. So solid in fact that he commandeered the Capitals’ No. 1 goalie spot entirely and subsequently quieted the trade deadline thinking of potentially securing an additional goaltender.

However, looking at his statistical output for this season, there are a few concerning trends coming out of the spreadsheet. One of them is rebound control and counter rebound attempts.

[Data utilized in this post is provided by Natural Stat Trick, Money Puck, and NoVa Caps Advances Analytics model. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the terms in the post you can check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.]

Rebound attempts against per game (5v5)

The following graph plots rebound attempts against at even strength for Vitek Vanecek for each of his games this season. [Click to enlarge].

In the first 16 games of the 2021-22 season (left of the red line), Vanecek had just 20 rebound attempts against for an average of 1.25 rebound attempts per game. Not bad. Not bad at all.

However, over the past 19 games, Vanecek has faced 53 rebound attempts in 19 games (right of the redline) for an average of 2.79 rebound attempts per game. This is more than double the rate of the first part of the season. It’s a puzzle.

Additionally, over the past 10 games, Vanecek has faced 38 rebound shots against an average of 3.8 rebound shots per game. That’s more than three times the volume of his first 16 games this season. It is a concern.

Rebound attempts against par 60 (5v5)

Since actual five-on-five ice time varies for each game, depending on shorthanded time, actual time on the ice, etc., it makes sense to “normalize” the data for each game. To do this, we can convert the data from each game into rebound attempts per 60 minutes of ice time. [Click to large].

For the first 16 games of the season, Vanecek totaled 17,846 rebounds per 60 minutes. Over the last 19 games, Vanecek has averaged 40,331 rebounds per 60 minutes. That’s 2.25 times more rebound attempts in the last 19 games compared to the first 16 games.

Potential causes

Most of Vanecek’s increase in rebound shot attempts came after Vanecek returned from a month-long hiatus in February. In fact, the increase essentially corresponds to the moment of his return from injury. One would assume that injury or a month’s break away from games (rust) could be a big factor, although he was otherwise solid in the crease during the same period – a period where he cemented the first place.

Another potential cause could be teams gaining familiarity (or a pound) on Vanecek, and the scouting report is now shooting low or throwing shots at his ranged pads, thinking the real opportunities to be beaten Vanecek could be on the second chance. (We will follow this in future games).

The sharp increase could also be an aggregation of other factors. Defensive variables (reshuffling of defensive pairings, injuries, etc.) could leave areas that were once covered in ice open for rebound attempts. [However, it should be noted that shots on goal per game have essentially remained the same, currently averaging 29.3 shots against per game (6th best in the league), up from 28.2 on January 10.]

Vanecek struggled with rebound control at times during his time at Hershey, but he seemed to figure that out as quickly as it became an issue. The rebound boost would resurface occasionally throughout the season (as it does with many goalies) but more often than not he quickly reigned in control. This is the positive point. He already took care of it and solved the problem.

Looking ahead, keep an eye out for Vanecek’s rebounds in his next start, possibly this Sunday against the top-flight Wild — a great test for Vanecek and the Capitals. Does he deflect shots to safe areas/corners? Or are they left in a spot that generates a rebound shot attempt?

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Center in 1974. His interest in the Caps grew over the decades, including being a season ticket holder. He was a reporter covering the team for over 10 years, focusing primarily on analysis, analysis and lead development.


Comments are closed.