SUNRISE — Jon Cooper stopped Andrei Vasilevskiy on his way into the dressing room before the game.
“Hey, 200th start tonight,” he said. When the goaltender expressed confusion, the coach repeated it. Vasilevskiy pointed to himself. “Yeah, you,” Cooper said. Vasilevskiy gave a little nod and bigger smile.
In truth, neither one had known until a reporter asked Cooper about it. The milestone sneaked up on them. He’s only the second Lightning goalie to reach that mark, and the youngest. Ben Bishop did it in his seventh season, at age 29.
“That’s a lot of starts for someone at a young age,” Cooper said. “You see a little bit later development for some of these players as they mature at an older age.”
He pointed out you can hide a forward, less so a defenseman and definitely not a goalie, as why goalies tend to develop later. Cooper credited Vasilevskiy’s talent and work ethic. He’d would know, he’s coached Vasilevskiy his whole career, starting as a callup, then a backup, then the secondary in a split-crease and finally the full-time starter.
“There’s a reason they call him the Big Cat,” Cooper said. “He moves like a cat and he has the reflexes and he has the size. It’s a lethal combination.”