It was in the second period of the Washington Capitals’ Stadium Series game in Annapolis that Jakub Vrana found himself on a breakaway, playing on one of the biggest stages and his first outdoor game. With the puck on his stick and the defense far behind, he ripped a shot past Frederik Andersen, and as the puck went in, a huge weight lifted off his shoulders.
It had been 25 games since Washington Capitals winger Jakub Vrana had scored, his last goal dating all the way back to December. His drop in offensive production resulted in not only a few healthy scratches but in lost confidence. However, that came to an end Saturday, when he scored the final goal of the Capitals’ 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs.
“It’s a big relief,” Vrana said of ending the scoring drought. “I was waiting for it for many games now, but you just have to keep going, get some confidence from that and keep going in next games.”
In 58 games this season, the 22-year-old rookie has registered 11 goals and 21 points. Last season, he got to play 21 games with Washington, but after only putting up three goals and six points over that span, he saw more time with Hershey, where he appeared to excel with more playing time.
However, with openings on the Capitals’ forward lines heading into this season, Vrana won a permanent spot on the team and has even earned significant playing time on the top-6, where he has laced up alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov, who appears to have chemistry with on the second line.
“Just playing with him [gives] me some confidence,” Vrana said earlier this season.
Vrana Finding Confidence
After putting up three goals and five points through 14 games in December, Vrana started to lose steam heading into the new year. With just one point in the month of January, Vrana saw himself fighting for his spot not only on the second line but in the lineup night in and night out.
He had been a healthy scratch on a few occasions over the last two months in wake of his struggles, often battling Alex Chiasson and Chandler Stephenson, as well as fellow rising prospect Andre Burakovsky, for a spot in the lineup. Now, however, it appears that he may be on the rise; he has points in two of his last three games and seems to be getting more scoring chances around the net and utilizing his speed, while also playing strong on the puck.
After seeing him end his goal-scoring drought, head coach Barry Trotz said he saw the relief wash over Vrana, and that it may be something he can build on.
“I said, ‘You got the monkey off your back.’ He had the biggest smile,” Trotz said. “I know he’s been playing real good hockey for us, just hasn’t gotten the results.”
As Vrana looks to build off his success, Trotz thinks that his Stadium Series goal will act as a launching pad, and that in turn, he should be ready to take off and run with it.
“He’s a young guy. A big goal like that is huge for him and his confidence,” Trotz said. “And I think he’ll hopefully have a good streak here.”
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.