TAMPA — Andrei Vasilevskiy left Amalie Arena disappointed and admittedly tired after the Lightning’s first-round playoff loss to the Maple Leafs. The All-Star goalie lamented that he needed to listen to his body more and respect its limits.
After an extra-long offseason, Vasilevskiy has returned refreshed but still focused on managing his body while not limiting himself. On Wednesday, as the Lightning began training camp by meeting the media, the 29-year-old said that he changed his offseason program and “bought a bunch of stuff” to help his body recover quickly so that he can keep up the same heavy workload he has maintained for years.
“I don’t think it will change the amount of games I’ll play this season, but I am pretty sure it’ll help me feel better during those games,” Vasilevskiy said.
General manager Julien BriseBois said workload management with Vasilevskiy had already been part of the team’s focus last season but agreed that may not be reflected in games played or time on ice.
“It’s an ongoing process with all of our players,” BriseBois said. “Sometimes it might be the number of games they play. Sometimes it might be how we use them in practice and what they do behind closed doors. It’s managing all of that because it all adds up over the course of the season.
“I think last year, we had already made some adjustments with ‘Vasy.’ He made some adjustments, and I think this year he has a plan to continue to make some adjustments.”
How Vasilevskiy feels on the ice is key to the Lightning getting back on track. He anchored them to three Stanley Cup finals in a row and was crucial to them winning two titles.
That is a lot of added wear and tear on the body.
Vasilevskiy started 71 playoff games as Tampa Bay won the Cup in 2020 and 2021. He was the playoff MVP in ‘21 and helped the Lightning get to the finals in ‘22, where they lost to the Avalanche. He went 34-22-4 in 60 regular-season games last season but lost 12 of his final 20.
In 242 games in the regular season and playoffs since August 2020, when the NHL resumed in a bubble because of the pandemic, Vasilevskiy has played 14,769 minutes.
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So it’s no surprise after last season’s playoff exit that he was left wondering what toll that had taken on his body and game.
“My mistake was that I didn’t really pay attention to my recovery,” said Vasilevskiy, three days after Tampa Bay was eliminated by Toronto in the first round.
“The first 30, 35 games, I felt as usual, but then me and my body weren’t on the same page, I guess. All those small injuries came out at the same time. Good lessons, another experience. (The 2022-23) season really showed me that I have to be smart about it. So if I want to be a workhorse, I have to recover well.”
Maybe that wear and tear showed on the ice, too.
Vasilevskiy started 60 games, going 34-22-4, but his 2.65 goals-against average was the second worst of his career, as was his .915 save percentage. In six playoff games, Vasilevskiy posted a 3.56 goals-against average, far above his career playoff average of 2.37, and a .875 save percentage, well below his playoff career mark of .921.
So Vasilevskiy spent the summer months with family, friends and his cat to rejuvenate his mind. He returned with a plan to pay more attention to how he feels after workouts and practices. He will do that after games as well. The “stuff” he bought this offseason are devices that help the body recover better. He spends more time after being on the ice stretching and getting treatments.
“We’ll see. I never paid attention that much to my recovery the last few years,” Vasilevskiy said. “I feel it’s actually probably something new to me. So I’m not sure how my body will respond to it. I hope it will respond well.”
Contact Kristie Ackert at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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