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Jakub Vrana was very quietly one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL last season. In the playoffs, however, he was very publicly not. Now as the Capitals prepare for the 2021 season, Vrana will look to put that rough postseason behind him and continue to progress in his career.
In the 2019-20 season, Vrana scored 24 goals at even strength, tied for 11th most in the NHL. Those 24 goals were one short of Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin, tied with Max Pacioretty and Jack Eichel, and one more than Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon. His goal total was among the offensive elites of the game.
In the playoffs, however, that stopped.
Vrana recorded zero points in eight postseason games. The low point came in Game 3 against the New York Islanders when he failed to score on a breakaway in overtime and Mathew Barzal scored the game-winner on the resulting counter. Vrana could be seen on the bench afterward with his head down.
“Obviously, it wasn’t great," Vrana said of his postseason. "Nothing goes really well for us in the playoffs, but sometimes there is up and downs in your career."
At 24 years old, Vrana is one of the budding young stars for the next generation of the Caps. After two tough postseasons, however, the lack of consistency is a concern.
Vrana's postseason point drought is currently at 15 games. Though he was a big part of the team's Cup run in 2018 with eight points in 23 games, Vrana did not record a point in 2019 or 2020. To be fair, Vrana was suffering from an upper-body injury in 2019, but this is a team that is dealing with consistency issues from the past two seasons and Vrana's performance is an example of that.
Maintaining consistency into the playoffs has to be a major focus for head coach Peter Laviolette.
“I think consistency is something we are always trying to talk about with players and how we play the game, there is a process to it and you want to try to be as consistent as you can with that," Laviolette said. "We would like to get back to Jakub and have another strong regular season and when we get to the playoffs we will approach that subject then."
Vrana is taking that message to heart and says he is only looking forward and not dwelling on the rough postseason.
"You’ve got to find a way (that) your mindset is going to go the right way," Vrana said. "You’re going forward, that’s where you’re going. You’re not going backward. You can’t look [at] what happened. You’re just going to take the most positives you can and just learn from it."