Goalie for the ages: Vasilevskiy sets franchise mark

by Gary Shelton on February 17, 2019 · 1 comment

in general

Vasilevskiy shut out yet another opponent./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 3 a.m.

The things that gets you, the thing that grasps you by your lapels and shakes you, is his youth.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is a relative baby in the NHL. He just got here. He unpacked his suitcase, and by the time he had hung up his shirts, he was a star. He is better today than he was yesterday, and odds are, he will be better tomorrow.

Vasilevskiy, 24 years, 207 days old, the age of an NFL rookie, was at it again Saturday. In essence, he held a pillow over the face of the Montreal Canadiens, and when it was all over, he had the latest in a series of shutouts against NHL opponents.

And wow.

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Kucherov scored jos 27th goal./CARMEN MANDATO

Vasilevskiy stopped all 20 shots to earn his sixth shutout of the season and his second in two games. It was Vasilevskiy's 18th career shutout, breaking the franchise record of former mentor Ben Bishop. And it was Vasilevskiy's fifth shutout in his last 14 games.

"There's not a lot that can be said about Vasy that all of us don't already know," Steven Stamkos said. "I think he's gotten better as the season's gone on. I thought coming back from that injury, he wanted to get dialed in right away.

"You just see his work ethic in practice. You see his preparation for games, he's just so competitive. He wants to make every single save. It's obviously fun to be part of that because it makes our job easier to go out and just have to get one."

You wonder about the territory in front of Vasilevskiy. How many years are ahead? Well, Dominik Hasek played until he was 43. Patrick Roy played until he was 42. Martin Brodeur played until he was 37.

Just wondering: How many shutouts might Vasilevskiy have with another 15 years or so in front of him?

Note this. While he was in Tampa Bay, Bishop had 17 shutouts. But he never had back-to-back shutouts. Vasilevskiy has gone back-to-back twice in the last two years.

"Fans the last six years have been pretty fortunate to first get to enjoy Ben Bishop and how he helped our franchise and to see Vasilevskiy," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I'll tell you, goaltenders can mask a lot of mistakes and those two guys are a big part of our success with this franchise.

"Placing it where it is now, Vasy's taken the baton and kept it going, so I can't say enough about those two guys. It's great watching Vasy really just come into his own in this league at such a young age. I couldn't be more happy for him.”

Cooper said Vasilevskiy has gotten better as the season has progressed.

At the end, you need your goaltender," Cooper said. "It was a tough spot for him in a sense. He missed 10-12 games, whatever it was, especially when it was a foot injury that it's not like he can be on the ice or anything. Since we came back from this break, he's really been taking off."

The Bolts and Canadiens were tied 0-0 through two periods, but the Bolts erupted to score three times in the third. The goals were by Nikita Kucherov, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson (who also had a goal disallowed. Montreal, too, had a goal disallowed).

"It's cool," Vasilevskiy said. "Bish is an unbelievable goalie, and I'm pretty proud to be number one now in shutouts."

The Bolts have worked to limit the shots that Vasilevskiy must face.

It's got to work both ways," Stamkos said. "We’ve got to and I think we have paid more attention to detail in terms of taking care of the puck and eliminating chances, but there's going to be breakdowns and when there are he's there.

"When he has confidence, it gives our team confidence to go out there and know if he can make the first save we can clear the puck or we can do a better job of boxing out which we have. So it's a combination of both, but he's in the zone right now. Like I said, it's great to be a part of."

The Lightning returns to action Monday when they travel to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m.





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