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The amazing, yet unsurprising abilities of Andrei Vasilevskiy

Slap Shots: Lightning power play questions, unsustainable stats and what would Vasilevskiy bring to a desert island.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) celebrates with his team after time expired and the Lightning avoided giving up a last-second goal, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) celebrates with his team after time expired and the Lightning avoided giving up a last-second goal, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday. [ DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Oct. 26, 2019
Updated Oct. 26, 2019

Andrei Vasilevskiy still dazzles, still amazes, but he doesn’t really surprise anymore.

The Lightning goalie made two incredible saves on Wednesday. First there was a pad save on Sam Lafferty’s breakaway, then the glove save at the buzzer.

“He makes a lot of them, so you kind of come to expect it,” Brayden Point said. “But when it happens, it’s always pretty amazing.”

Kevin Shattenkirk has known this about Vasilevskiy — everyone knows this about Vasilevskiy — but this is the first he’s seen it up close and to his benefit. As a defenseman, he finds it comforting. As someone who sometimes competes in the shootout, he finds it challenging. But the challenge isn’t to him anymore.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Dan Girardi, the funniest guy in hockey, will co-host a new podcast

“Even in practice, it’s amazing,” Shattenkirk said. “You feel like you have a wide-open net and he pushes out of nowhere.”

Did you catch that word again? Amazing. Somehow, Vasilevskiy manages to make something expected and mind-blowing at the same time. He’s that good.

Neither of Wednesday’s saves were Vasilevskiy’s best. My favorite remains the kick save behind his back last year. Others might vote for the glove save behind his back the season before. (Side note: Does he have eyes in the back of his head?)

“It’s pretty amazing how he keeps track of the puck,” Point said. “Just his flexibility, his attitude and effort to never give up on the puck it’s pretty impressive.”

I’m with Point on all of the above. Vasilevskiy is more flexible than anyone his size (6-3, 207 pounds) has any business being — hence that Big Cat nickname — and he has some kind of internal puck radar.

“It’s almost becoming too regular,” Shattenkirk said. “It’s just a save for Vasy.”

Quick hits with Andrei Vasilevskiy

Most used app on his phone: Vasilevskiy scrolls through the photos app constantly on the road, watching videos wife Ksenia sends of their son, Lukas.

Movie he re-watches frequently: Vasilevskiy isn’t sure how many times he’s seen Slap Shot, other than to say “many.” The original is clearly the best, and reminds him of his time in Syracuse.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Don't miss a thing this season! Use promo code GOBOLTS to get three months of digital access for $14.

One object to bring to a deserted island: A helicopter, to escape.

So, I had a thought …

• I am in complete agreement with John Tortorella. Never thought I’d say that, but here we are. Tortorella advocated getting rid of the shootout because three-on-three overtime is “just dynamic.” Yes. Correct. Let’s leave shootouts in the skills competition and move on.

• The Lightning will see a couple of rookie phenoms this week. First up is Kaapo Kakko with the Rangers, then Jack Hughes and the Devils. We hear all the hype and we see the highlights, but it’s always fun to see them in person.

• Remember when it seemed the Lightning would have a serious salary cap and need to use the long-term injured reserve for relief? Well, 14 teams have used that this year and the Lightning aren’t one of them. General manager Julien BriseBois traded Ryan Callahan’s contract to Ottawa instead of using it. He traded J.T. Miller and signed low-cost additions, plus Point at a bargain price. Now the team is carrying 22 players with a roster limit of 23 and has $2.4 million of space. (Numbers, as always, courtesy of the amazingly helpful capfriendly.com.)

Three-on-three

NYC-area teams: 3. Devils. 2. Rangers. 1. Islanders

Concerns with a Tampa Bay outdoor game: 3. Where to hold it? 2. Humidity 1. It doesn’t get below 50 here

Unsustainable stats: 3. Ottawa’s 3.7 percent power play. 2. San Jose’s 91 percent penalty kill. 1. Cedric Paquette’s 100 percent shooting percentage.

Questions facing the Lightning

What happened to the power play?

Last season, committing a penalty against the Lightning was one of the worst things you could do. This year, eh, it’s not great but probably not much of an issue either. The Lightning are scoring on a respectable, but lower than expected, 24 percent of their opportunities. One of the problems is a lack of shots. Sam Lafferty, a Penguins penalty killer, had more good chances on the Lightning’s power play than Tampa Bay did before the winning goal Wednesday. This is oversimplifying the matter a little but the Lightning need to shoot the puck where they have openings and not wait for perfect openings.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: The struggling power play and Andrei Vasilevskiy came up big in the clutch

What’s up with the Devils?

Okay, this isn’t a question for the Lightning, but it’s relevant to the team, which plays New Jersey on Wednesday. It’s been a rough six years for the Devils (except that one trip to the playoffs in 2018), but this offseason started to look up. They drafted Hughes, traded for P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev, signed Wayne Simmonds and made hires in the analytics department. All of that has left them with six total points and at the bottom of the division … again.

Where should we go in Sweden?

This question comes from reader Larry Youhn. If you have a question, @ me! Well, Larry, stay tuned. Next week’s edition of Slap Shots will be a whole lot of Victor Hedman telling us a whole lot about Sweden. But for now, I’ve been told some of the must-dos are the Vasa, Skansen and Abba museums, as well as wandering around Old Town and Strandvägen (a beautiful street along the water). Also, there’s a restaurant called Aifur Krog where people dress up like Vikings.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.