Andrei Vasilevskiy, who received an eight-year contract extension Monday, has a knack for the big saves.
At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he takes up much of the net, but the goalie also has an athleticism that belies his size.
That combination is often cited by opponents as what makes Vasilevskiy so hard to go up against. It also leads to jaw-dropping saves. Here are some of Vasilevskiy’s best:
Behind the back
There’s highlight-reel and then there’s NHL commercial quality. Vasilevskiy’s behind-the-back swipe caught the NHL marketing team’s eye.
Anze Kopitar appeared to have the angle in a Feb. 10, 2018, game. It was a tight angle almost at the red line, but he was behind Vasilevskiy. Nope.
Vasilevskiy bent over low, looking through Dustin Brown’s legs. He tried to push himself backward, but couldn’t get there fast enough. Vasilevskiy stuck his arm out behind him and caught the puck, making it look as easy as a catcher who told the pitcher where to throw it.
Eyes in the back of his head
In his first game back from a fractured foot on Dec. 13, 2018, Vasilevskiy made 48 saves. One came almost flat on his stomach, again with the puck behind him.
It was really three good saves in one, two of which would have been impressive on their own.
Patrick Marleau flipped the puck at the gap inside the post and Vasilevskiy tipped it with his glove. Marleau reached to tip the puck in the air but Vasilevskiy got it with the back of his skate.
With the puck still loose, Vasilevskiy reached his leg straight back, lifting it over the puck and then lowering the pad to catch the puck just before the goal line with his toe.
He could have ended up pushing the puck into the net, but was able to position his leg behind it instead of knocking it.
No sure goals
Getting behind a goalie should equal a goal. Vasilevskiy’s multiple behind-the-back saves demonstrates that it’s not just luck. He also did it against Charles Hudon to secure a shootout victory for the Lightning against Montreal on Feb. 24, 2018.
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Hudon didn’t try anything flashy with his approach in the shootout. He crossed to Vasilevskiy’s stick side.
The goalie stuck a pad out and lurched forward. Hudon tried to elevate over the pad, but Vasilevskiy reached behind his back to make a glove save.
Connor McDavid is an assist machine. He and Nikita Kucherov have that in common. Kucherov commented that he enjoys drawing a double team and finding an open teammate. McDavid almost pulled that off against Vasilevskiy in Edmonton’s Nov. 4 visit to Tampa.
He drew Ryan McDonough and Brayden Point to him, then passed to Ty Rattie trailing the play. McDonagh dropped off McDavid and tried to drop down for a block.
Vasilevskiy, in position tracking McDavid at the far side, dove back across the net, reaching across his body. The puck deflected off his mask and out of play.
Sprawl and smother
Vasilevskiy has the controlled sprawl down. He looks like he is flailing until you realize he was where he was meant to be.
He made a couple of turns to end up covering a shot by Brayden Schenn on Feb. 7, 2019. Colton Parayko tried to tuck the puck inside the post but Vasilevskiy stuck a skate there.
Schenn tracked down the rebound, likely figuring to have an open shot at the other side of the net. Vasilevskiy flipped over, ditching his stick in the process, and threw his body across the crease. He reached out, trying to cover some of the upper portion and took the shot to the face, smothering the puck underneath his body.