BRANDON — Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready, presumably just as he always is.
The former Vezina-winning goaltender said he’s excited for the postseason and the passion this time of year brings out in teams across the league.
“I have some energy boost, some emotional boost,” he said. “And I hope I’ll be able to elevate my game for the playoffs, for sure.”
Tampa Bay will start its playoff run Sunday in Sunrise for an opening-round series against the Panthers.
Time off in the latter part of the season gave Vasilevskiy a small break after he played so much early on.
Backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney was on the COVID-19 list for two weeks beginning on Jan. 16, and Vasilevskiy was pulled into play for some rescheduled contests. So when the Lightning traveled to Detroit on May 1 and 2, Vasilevskiy was left at home to rest.
This year, Vasilevskiy posted a 31-10-1 record and led the league in wins for the fourth straight year. His .925 save percentage also tied a career-high from 2018-19.
Though his overall record is one of his best, Vasilevskiy struggled against Florida, going 2-4 and allowing 20 goals (recording an .895 save percentage) in six games.
Nevertheless, the postseason grind is something he has become accustomed to.
Vasilevskiy — who’s been a rock for this team through ups, downs and injuries — played in every playoff game (25 contests in 65 days) last season leading up to the team hoisting the Stanley Cup.
He said the chance to win a second Cup gives him added incentive this postseason.
“It’s kind of the same thing almost every day,” Vasilevskiy said. “Emotions and motivation will make a difference for us, for sure.”
• • •
Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.