Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 38 of 40 shots before Sidney Crosby beat him in overtime last night. It was another solid performance for the 21-year-old, who’s been forced into a pressure-packed situation due to Ben Bishop’s injury.
It’s still early in the Eastern Conference Final, but Vasilevskiy has been giving his team a chance to win, and that’s about all you can ask from your goalie.
“He’s outstanding,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “You never want to lose your number one guy in Bish, but you’ve got one A-plus right behind him, and he was — I thought he was outstanding tonight and probably the reason why that game went to overtime in the first place.”
Vasilevskiy wasn’t as outstanding during the regular season, when he went a modest 11-10-0 with a .910 save percentage. But then, he was also the youngest netminder in the league. Most goalies don’t make it to the NHL so quickly. As one general manager put it, “Goalies develop in dog years.”
Whether Vasilevskiy becomes a future starter in Tampa Bay remains to be seen. Bishop can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and GM Steve Yzerman has a long list of skaters that need new deals as well.
That’s not a decision that needs to be made now, but it is one to keep in mind. If this is an audition of sorts for Vasilevskiy, so far he’s nailing it.
Remember that Vasilevskiy was the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft, about as high as a goalie gets taken these days. He was not drafted to be a backup.