Vasilevskiy still gives Lightning a chance

by Gary Shelton on February 23, 2022

in general

Vasilevskiy gives the Bolts a chance./TIM WIRT

Wednesday, 4 a.m

Great player, Nikita Kucherov. Great vision, great feel for the game. Great passer, great finisher.

But Kucherov might not do anything when the Bolts play against Edmonton tonight.

Great shot, Steven Stamkos. He can move the puck from the circle to the net in a heartbeat.

But, no, Stamkos might not do anything tonight either.
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Brayden Point can handle the puck. Victor Hedman has his incredible reach. Ondrej Palat is huge in the biggest moments.

But they might be invisible tonight, too.

That's the thing about hockey. Even the great players are great only every now and then. In an 82-game season, stars only shine every so often. The great ones are better the most nights, but not on all of them.

Except for Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is good most of the time.

Tonight, you can bet that he'll be good again.

Vasilevskiy continues to be the rock for the two-time defending champion Lightning. Vasilevskiy was a big part of the reason the Bolts won the last two championships. He's the reason they cannot be counted out for a third one this year, either.

It is the most important position in sports, goaltender. A great quarterback never plays defense. A great pitcher throws every five days.A great NBA player sits for long stretches of time. But a goaltender is a man whose job description is to put his face between a speeding puck and the net. Count on this: Whoever wins this year's Stanley Cup will have to get a fine job from its goaltender.

Oh, Vasilevskiy isn't perfect. A half-dozen times this year, he's given up four goals or more.

But on a team that still gives up too many odd-man rushes, Vasilevskiy is the great equalizer. He's the guy playing in traffic, the guy who stares down scoring threats, the acrobat standing in the way of opponents who can launch missiles.

This season, Vasilevskiy is tied for second in the NHL in wins. He's in his seventh year with at leasst 23 wins.

He's seventh in save percentage. Before it's all done, he'll get into the Vezina discussion.

Ask yourself this: Since the retirement of Tom Brady, should Vasilevskiy be Tampa Bay's most celebrated athlete?

It's no secret. The salary cap and the expansion draft have robbed the Bolts of some of the depth of the last two seasons.

But Vasilevskiy gives them a chance. He always gives them a chance.

Tonight, he'll give them another one.


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