TAMPA — With every win, Andrei Vasilevskiy grows more confident.
Not the kind of confidence that makes him cocky, but the kind that makes him feel comfortable in all situations.
The Vezina Trophy-winning Lightning goaltender tied his career-high mark of 10 consecutive wins with Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the Blackhawks at Amalie Area.
He has compiled such a streak twice before (Feb. 9-March 5, 2019, and Dec. 23, 2019-Jan. 17, 2020). The franchise record is Louis Domingue’s 11-game winning streak from Nov. 29, 2018-Feb. 19, 2019.
“Definitely I have some confidence going on,” Vasilevskiy said. “Our team is playing extremely well.”
He leads the league in wins (19) and his .932 save percentage is second behind Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury (.933) among goaltenders with at least 20 games played.
Vasilevskiy, who had 19 saves against Chicago, said rest is the key to his recent success. He doesn’t skate every morning before a game and manages his time away from the rink well.
Winning the Stanley Cup last season helped solidify Vasilevskiy’s confidence in his preparation for games. He said he tries to learn something new every year to help the team but it was in the postseason bubbles in Canada where he perfected that routine.
“I know what I have to do before every game,” he said. “I knew what I had to do before, but now it’s kind of almost perfect, so I try to stick with it. So far so good, but it’s a tough league to win in and you have to keep working hard to win the games.”
When Chicago went up 1-0 early in the first period on Mattias Janmark’s power-play goal, Vasilevskiy didn’t flinch.
The Blackhawks registered another three shot attempts before Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde put the Lightning up 2-1. A late first-period Chicago goal from Dylan Strome tied the score.
The shots kept coming, but no more Chicago attempts found the back of the net. It wasn’t until the third period that Lightning rookie forward Ross Colton broke the tie with his second career goal, followed by Victor Hedman’s empty-netter with 15.9 seconds remaining.
Vasilevskiy’s teammates don’t see any fault in his game, nor his preparation.
“He’s so good at everything,” Gourde said. “He’s such a hard-working guy. He plays the puck very well. He’s phenomenal in that he’s good through traffic and he’s making every save look easier. He’s been big for us.”
When coach Jon Cooper looks at Vasilevskiy, he sees the growth the 26-year-old has made in the mental aspect of the game since joining the league in 2014. The jump from backup to starter two years later was “a huge step” and continues to be a work in progress.
“He came and grabbed the job at such a young age,” Cooper said. “You want to have so much success, but … as much as (goaltending) is physical, there’s a mental aspect to it.”
Cooper said that the way Vasilevskiy manages games in which he sees just a handful of shots in one period to an onslaught of shots in the next is a testament to that mental maturity.
“He’s just rolled in that respect,” Cooper said. “And so then you add that onto the talent he has and he’s growing into a star.”
First Period—1, Chicago, Janmark 10 (Kubalik, DeBrincat), 2:10 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Killorn 8 (Hedman, Stamkos), 13:15. 3, Tampa Bay, Gourde 9 (Sergachev, Vasilevskiy), 17:02 (pp). 4, Chicago, Strome 5 (Keith, Janmark), 18:45 (pp). Penalties—Goodrow, TB (Unsportsmanlike Conduct), 0:47; Wallmark, CHI (Tripping), 15:38; Maroon, TB (Interference), 18:08.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Gourde, TB (Slashing), 0:35; Kurashev, CHI (Hooking), 5:51; Goodrow, TB (Boarding), 13:03.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Colton 2 (Maroon, Joseph), 5:32. 6, Tampa Bay, Hedman 6, 19:44. Penalties—None.
Shots on Goal—Chicago 9-7-5_21. Tampa Bay 10-7-6_23. Power-play opportunities—Chicago 2 of 4; Tampa Bay 1 of 2. Goalies—Chicago, Lankinen 10-6-4 (22 shots-19 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 18-3-1 (21-19). T—2:22. Referees—Pierre Lambert, Kelly Sutherland. Linesmen—Jonny Murray, Pierre Racicot.
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