Jon Cooper’s faith in Andrei Vasilevskiy unflagging

It’s rare for the Lightning goalie to drop back-to-back games, occurring just once in the regular season.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) looks down at the ice after Columbus Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene (95) scored in the second period in Game 2 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Friday, April 12, 2019 in Tampa. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) looks down at the ice after Columbus Blue Jackets center Matt Duchene (95) scored in the second period in Game 2 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Friday, April 12, 2019 in Tampa. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Published April 13

TAMPA — There’s a lot of upset and outrage throughout Tampa Bay at the Lightning getting out to an 0-2 start against the Blue Jackets on home ice to start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

And when the No. 1 team in the league has everything going against it, consistency is at a premium.

That consistency falls to Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Coach Jon Cooper said that above all else, his goalie is “the one guy I’m not worried about.”

But why isn’t he?

Vasilevskiy only dropped back-to-back games once during the regular season (in a shootout and in overtime in February) and he finished the regular season 13-0-1 after a loss.

Sounds good, right?

In the regular season, Tampa Bay outscored Columbus 17-3. But entering Game 3, the Blue Jackets have the 9-4 edge.

Vasilevskiy enters Game 3 with a save percentage of .831 in the playoffs compared to the eighth-ranked .925 he held by the end of the regular season.

“He’s a competitor,” Cooper said. “Even in practice, a puck slips by him, he doesn’t let that puck sit in the net. It’s coming right out.”

His competitiveness is why despite missing almost a month from injury, he led the league with 39 wins in just 53 starts.

Could Game 3 be the turning point the Lightning needs?

“There’s a lot of goaltenders in the league, but he’s elevated himself as one of the great ones,” Cooper said, “not only in his technical abilities, but just his competitive nature and his drive has really helped him."

Advertisement