Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov sat in his visiting dressing room stall in Raleigh last Friday and started his spiel on fellow countryman Ilya Samsonov. The rookie goaltender had recorded his eighth road win to improve to 11-2-1 overall, and Kuznetsov felt Samsonov still wasn’t getting the credit he deserved.

Last season, when Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart went on an eight-game winning streak, Kuznetsov lamented that “every TV, all the league” was talking about how good he was. This season, according to Kuznetsov, Samsonov has gotten lost in the shuffle of everything else happening around the team.

“You know, this guy, one of the greatest rookies this year, right,” Kuznetsov said. "People don’t even realize how hard it is to be behind [Braden Holtby] because Holts is the best goalie in the league …

“I think you guys need to talk more about how Sammy is good.”

Samsonov, who will be in net against Ottawa on Tuesday night at Capital One Arena, is the first goaltender in franchise history to record 11 wins within his first 13 starts. Among rookie goaltenders with at least six games started, Samsonov ranks first in points percentage (. 821), goals against average (2.33) and save percentage (. 918).

“I just felt like this was the right game for Sammy to go in for,” Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said on playing Samsonov against Ottawa and Holtby for Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers. “Tomorrow, divisional game, Braden to go back after I thought a real strong game at the end in particular, so we are going to go with this.”

Samsonov is on pace for 21 wins this season and would rank third in wins by a Russian rookie goaltender in NHL history, trailing only Evgeni Nabokov (34) and Sergei Bobrovsky (28), who each played 77 and 54 games, respectively, in their rookie seasons.

Samsonov has the confidence of the coaching staff and his teammates. He also is still fully grasping how well he has been able to do so far this season. He said he didn’t know he was undefeated on the road until Kuznetsov told him.

“He played unbelievable,” Lars Eller said. "But we see that almost every night, it’s like this level. I think he has surpassed all expectations we could think of as a younger rookie goaltender and it is not easy. Sometimes you don’t play for two weeks and I can’t think of a game that he didn’t play well. It’s a luxury to have two goalies like we have.”

Kuznetsov pointed out how much Samsonov is learning from Holtby. A Stanley Cup winner in front of him can be a roadblock to more ice time, but more importantly, it’s a chance to learn from a veteran.

“I believe he has got the greatest mentor with Holts in front of him,” Kuznetsov said. "He’s learning a lot, and maybe he don’t say that to him, but I’m around him a lot and he is always learning from Holts and I think that is the best duo in the league right now.”

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