Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's new goalie plan: Give Vasilevskiy more starts

TAMPA — As expected, G Ben Bishop started the Lightning's season-opening 6-4 win against the Red Wings on Thursday.

He's the team's unquestioned No. 1 goalie and will get the lion's share of the starts this season.

But backup Andrei Vasilevskiy is likely to get more starts than usual.

Coach Jon Cooper said that ideally Bishop would get around 50 starts and Vasilevskiy 30. "If you could map it up, it'd be unreal," he said.

That kind of split accomplishes two things: It allows Bishop to remain fresh and healthy for what the Lightning hopes is a long playoff run, and Vasilevskiy can stay sharp and maintain his development as a No. 1 in waiting.

Backups typically play in back-to-back game situations, but the Lightning has only one of those in the first month of the season. So Vasilevskiy will have to get mixed in, including on this four-game homestand. Bishop said he has set a standard to start 60 games, which he has in each of the past three seasons. But if everything goes as planned for Tampa Bay, he might miss that mark this year.

"With every year, Vasy has gotten better and better and better," Cooper said. "Just got to keep getting these guys more games. Let's be honest. (Vasilevskiy is) a big part of our team today and in the future."

RELATED: The Lightning starts the season with a 6-4 win over the Red Wings.

PAQUETTE SHOOTS, SCORES: F Cedric Paquette said he wanted to think more offensively this season, and he proved that with an unassisted goal in the second period that cut the Red Wings' lead to 3-2.

Paquette broke into the offensive zone along the left boards. Instead of dumping the puck like he said he would have last season, Paquette shot on net. The puck found its way past G Petr Mrazek.

"Just tried to get it on net and got lucky there," he said.

The goal seemed to spark the Lightning, which scored the next three goals.

"After my goal, I think we took it over," Paquette said, "and we didn't look back."

ON POINT: F Brayden Point kept noticing on Twitter on Wednesday night the details of the remarkable NHL debut of the Maple Leafs' 2016 No. 1 overall draft pick, Auston Matthews, who scored four goals against the Senators.

"That was the line in the room (Thursday), 'The standard has been set,' " coach Jon Cooper quipped. "Got to chase that one down."

Point, 20, who made his NHL debut Thursday night in the season opener against the Red Wings, wasn't shooting for that league record.

"I wouldn't hold my breath for that," Point said, smiling. "Just try to have a good game, have fun and soak it all in."

Point's parents, Janice and Grant, and brother Kade, 13, arrived from Calgary on Wednesday night. The family had dinner at Jackson's Bistro in Tampa.

Point, a third-round pick in 2014, will slot in on the third line with Valtteri Filppula and Vladislav Namestnikov. Cooper's pregame advice to Point: Be yourself.

" 'Ultimately, you made it. You've got hockey sense, you can skate, you know how to play. Don't ever lose your competitive edge, because that's one of the things for undersized guys right now. It's pushing you over the top,' " Cooper said.

NUTS AND BOLTS: D Slater Koekkoek was a healthy scratch. … D Andrej Sustr got into his first NHL fight.

Times staff writer Roger Mooney contributed to this report.

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