On Thursday night Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up another win when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in front of a sold out crowd at Amalie Arena. It was Vasilevskiy’s eighth win in a row and ninth overall this season. In the victory he also became the fifth goalie in franchise history to appear in 100 games.
I was pondering if that was a good thing or not. The Lightning are celebrating their 25th season on the ice. They’ve played over 1900 games and only five goalies have suited up more than 100 times? That seems like...not a lot. According to hockey reference the organization has had 44 goalies appear in at least one game, which also doesn’t seem like a lot. Especially since in the late 90s and early 00s they seemingly ran through every goaltender that ever strapped on the pads (Team Zac Bierk forever!).
In the last few years they’ve managed to slow down the goalie roster churn a bit. Mike Smith appeared in 118 games before taking his talents to Arizona. Then after a little fluctuation, Ben Bishop took over the job and appeared in 227 games (franchise record) while winning 131 of them (also a franchise record).
Bishop and his lanky self were shipped off to Los Angeles last season and Vasilevskiy was appointed the starter. All the Russian netminder has done since then is win 21 of the 28 games he has appeared in.
Vasy’s win on Thursday was the 50th of his career. For a young goaltender who served as a backup for the first two and a half seasons of his NHL career, that’s not bad. It’s not, however, the most wins in a Lightning goalie’s first 100 games. That distinction belongs to, who else, Ben Bishop who racked up 58 wins before hitting the century mark. Vasilevskiy also trails John Grahame, the forgotten goalie, who had 53 wins in his first 100 games with the Lightning.
Over his Lightning career Vasilevskiy has posted a .918 save percentage. That currently ranks second behind Bishop’s .921 SV% in franchise history for players who appeared in more than a handful of games. (I see your 1.000 SV% Riku Helenius.) His .925 even strength SV% trails only Bishop as well.
The main difference between Vasilevskiy and the other gentlemen with over 100 games in a Bolts jersey? He’s only 23 years old. Bishop was in his age 28 year when he played his 100th game, while Grahame, Nikolai Khabibulin and Daren Puppa were all in their age 30 season.
Barring any major injury, contract dispute, or league-wide holdout (I’ll let you guess which one of those is most likely) the owner of adorable kittens will most likely hold all of the major Lightning goaltender records within the next three seasons. Actually, with the frequency that Coach Cooper is playing him this year, he might could have them by the end of next season.
It’s a bit early to start engraving Vasilevskiy’s name on a hall of fame plaque, but his progress over the first 100 games of his career are an encouraging sign. Perhaps the best sign is that he is still learning and getting better. Despite his quick start in the league, we may not have achieve peak Vasilevskiy yet. The decline in production for goaltenders doesn’t noticeably start until after their age 30 season, so we have six or seven years of Vasilevskiy potentially being one of the best goalies in the league.