Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning-Capitals: Anyone vacillating on Andrei Vasilevskiy?

TAMPA — He's the future, but he's the present. He's the reason the Lightning felt comfortable trading Ben Bishop. He's the reason why the Lightning won as much as it did.

"He proved that all year, " Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "He's been the most consistent, best player this whole season."

And he has given up 10 goals in the last two periods.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is under the microscope as his team travels to Washington down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference final. The Lightning was pummeled by the Washington Capitals in Tampa, outplayed, outhustled, outcoached and, yes, outgoaltended.

I'm not pulling Vasilevskiy. The Lightning happens to agree. In for a dime, in for a dollar. You ride the kid to the end, whenever and wherever that might be.

It's Vasilevskiy or bust.

No change.

"No," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "He's our guy."

What, Louis Domingue is going to pull your fat from the fire?

At least when the Capitals yanked former red hot Philipp Grubauer early in the playoffs, they could turn to Braden Holtby, a former Vezina Trophy winner. Holtby has been bedrock for Washington ever since.

You stay with Vasilevskiy.

To make a change now, away from Vasilevskiy, would set off neural alarms up and down the Lightning roster. You go with Vasilevskiy, at least in Game 3. If it blows up again, lesson learned.

That's not to say this hasn't been an adventure. This is Vasilevskiy's first turn through the playoffs as a No. 1. He has had good moments and bad moments. He isn't the only reason the Lightning is getting scorched.

On the other hand, he allowed Washington's fourth goal with seconds left in the second period Sunday night. Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov beat Vasilevskiy from a sharp angle. That puck can't go in.

When it did, the Lightning went from a goal down to two down. The air was sucked right out of Amalie Arena. It was a Capitals jamboree from there on out.

Vasilevskiy didn't talk to media after Game 2. Nor did he speak at the Jet Center on Monday before the Lightning beat it to D.C. Yeah, maybe Vasilevskiy isn't comfortable around the TV cameras. Doesn't look too comfortable around Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin, either. Stepping up after games is something he needs to grow up and into. It's part of being the man.

Is he shot? Did all those games during the season take their toll? Or is this just a simple case of this is how far Vasilevskiy can take the Lightning at this point in his career. Is he just not ready to go all the way?

If sports betting was legal, right now, would you place a bet on this series coming back to Tampa for Game 5? I would.

But the Lightning has pushed all of its chips in on Vasilevskiy.

"It's the chances we're giving up," Cooper said. "It's the five-man unit in front of him. You've got to feel for him. The choice for the guy going over the boards in any situation is Vasilevskiy."

"He's one of those guys, his compete level is so high, he puts a lot of pressure on himself," Hedman said. "You want that in a goalie."

It will take more than that in Game 3 on Tuesday. That's how it works in the playoffs. Your goalie has to win a few games when it matters most. There can't be bad goal at just the wrong time. You can't let the life get sucked out of your season. It's time for Cooper to pull out all the stops for Game 3, line changes, lineup changes — but all the stops being pulled out won't matter if No. 88 doesn't stop shots.

The Lightning needs to ride Vasilevskiy, for his present and his future. But no one said it would be easy.

More Martin Fennelly

How things look at the corner of Panic and Stricken

Phil Esposito on the Russians: 'Everyone's the same. They want the Cup'

Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly

Comments
Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman, a relentless part of the Lightning's push to the Eastern Conference final last season, was honored Wednesday night with the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's top defenseman."To the Lightning organization, Mr. Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

Lightning announce home opener: Oct. 6 vs. Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning will announce their full 2018-19 schedule on Thursday, but the league announced each home opener Wednesday, with Tampa Bay playing host to the Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Oct. 6.The Lightning will know their ...
Published: 06/20/18
Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Norris Trophy could be good consolation for Lightning’s Victor Hedman

Victor Hedman is talking from a hotel room in Las Vegas and admits he's a little jet-lagged."Actually, very jet-lagged," Hedman says.That's what happens when you take a flight from Sweden to the party capital of the world.But he knows exactly what he...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Mike Hoffman traded twice in wake of harassment, cyberbullying claims

Mike Hoffman traded twice in wake of harassment, cyberbullying claims

The Ottawa Senators traded winger Mike Hoffman on Tuesday, hoping to solve an ugly off-ice issue involving star defenseman Erik Karlsson and his wife. The Senators sent Hoffman to the San Jose Sharks, who then dealt him to the Florida Panthers. All t...
Published: 06/19/18
Salary-cap increase makes for ‘more fun’ NHL offseason

Salary-cap increase makes for ‘more fun’ NHL offseason

Thanks, Vegas. That’s what NHL general managers are saying this offseason after the Stanley Cup Final run of the expansion Golden Knights contributed to what’s expected to be a healthy increase for the salary cap. With elite center John Tavares, No. ...
Published: 06/19/18
Barry Trotz resigns as coach of Stanley Cup-winning Capitals

Barry Trotz resigns as coach of Stanley Cup-winning Capitals

Barry Trotz abruptly stepped down as coach of the Washington Capitals on Monday after failing to agree to terms on a new contract, a stunning move that left the newly minted Stanley Cup champions without a coach with the draft later this week and wit...
Published: 06/18/18
Lightning re-signs goaltender Eddie Pasquale to two-way deal

Lightning re-signs goaltender Eddie Pasquale to two-way deal

The Lightning re-signed goaltender Eddie Pasquale to a one-year, two-way contract general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.Pasquale, 27, split this past season between the Syracuse Crunch and Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League. He...
Published: 06/18/18
Lightning opens seven-game preseason schedule at home Sept. 18

Lightning opens seven-game preseason schedule at home Sept. 18

TAMPA — The Lightning will open its seven-game preseason schedule at home with a 7:30 p.m.  game Sept. 18 against the Carolina Hurricane, the team announced Thursday.That is one of three home games the Lightning will play in a preseason sc...
Published: 06/14/18
Lightning trades Peter Budaj to Kings, acquires forward Andy Andreoff

Lightning trades Peter Budaj to Kings, acquires forward Andy Andreoff

Sixteen months after acquiring Peter Budaj from the Kings, the Lightning today returned the veteran goaltender to Los Angeles.The Lightning traded Budaj for forward Andy Andreoff, general manager Steve Yzerman announced in a news release.Andreoff, 27...
Published: 06/13/18
Lightning set as early favorite to win the Stanley Cup in 2018-19

Lightning set as early favorite to win the Stanley Cup in 2018-19

This past season didn't end the way Lightning fans might have hoped, but that's no reason to lose hope.In fact, oddsmakers are more bullish on Tampa Bay than any team in the NHL for next season.According to at least one sports betting site, the ...
Published: 06/08/18