Recently, Russian journalist Maxim Nikerin of Sport.business-gazeta.ru talked to Tampa Bay Lightning goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy about last seasons playoffs.
If you use this translated text in any way, please credit Maxim Nikerin of Sport.business-gazeta.ru and Igor Nikonov (@nikonov_igor) of Raw Charge.
Maxim Nikerin: Andrei, do you think that nomination for the best goalkeeper of the season in the NHL is almost the top of career?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: I wouldn’t say so. It’s great to be one of the top 3 of goalkeepers in the whole league. To be the one of these players who went to the NHL Awards, to feel the atmosphere of the show, Vegas itself, where it took place. Though I didn’t win the trophy, it was worth it.
Maxim Nikerin: You went the longest way in the Stanley Cup playoffs than other nominees. Some people say that Rinne got trophy because of his long career.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: They’re giving an award for regular season and he looked very decent so there shouldn’t be any questions. We talked to each other, of course he was expecting to win, because it was his fourth nomination, but he hadn’t won this trophy yet. It should have happened someday, and last season turned out to be the right time.
Maxim Nikerin: Do you think it is fair to give this prize for regular season?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Why not? It’s very hard to go through the whole season on the highest level. Personal trophies don’t matter in the playoffs, everyone’s playing for the Cup.
Maxim Nikerin: The winner of Vezina Trophy are chosen by general managers of every team in the NHL. If you would be the one of them, who would you nominee?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: The same ones who was nominated. Fleury deserved the nomination, but he played less games.
Maxim Nikerin: When is Vasilevskiy going to win the Vezina Trophy?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: My goal is the Stanley Cup. Personal trophies are just extra bonuses.
Maxim Nikerin: But do you already know how to win the trophy this season?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: No, gonna improvise.
Maxim Nikerin: Did you visit the casino in Vegas?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: It’s impossible not go there in Vegas. I played for the first time, but just to try it.
Maxim Nikerin: Did you lose?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: I played just for 20 minutes and won 100 dollars. I’m not gambling.
Maxim Nikerin: Tampa were close to the Cup but lost to Capitals. Why?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: It was a fun matchup. We played the first two series so well, each player did what they needed to do, we won both series 4-1, honestly I was surprised. I thought that we were going to play seven games against Boston. I thought if we keep playing this way we will have a good chance to win. But something went wrong. Every Capitals line played great, not just their leaders.
Maxim Nikerin: The matchup against Washington started with two home defeats but you still made it to game seven.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: It doesn’t matter if it’s home or road game in the playoffs.
Maxim Nikerin: Is Jon Cooper a strong motivator?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: He’s a strong motivator and tactician as well.
Maxim Nikerin: Does he yell at players in the locker room?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Yes, he does, but not often.
Maxim Nikerin: Did some coach yelled at you on the senior level?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: A couple of times.
Maxim Nikerin: Who it was?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Can’t say it.
Maxim Nikerin: Did you analyze Ovechkin in the playoffs?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Yes, but I played against him before and know his shot and how he’s able to shoot from every position and how his shot is “radio-controlled“.
Maxim Nikerin: Could you explain?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Do you know how soccer players hit the ball and it’s changing trajectory during the flight? It’s the same with Ovechkin and his shot. It’s even harder to catch the puck when he’s shooting from long distance, because the puck can change its trajectory many times. I don’t know where he learned it, but he scores 50-60 goals every season. We talked with the coaching staff that we should try to reduce the number of his shots. Because I’m not the octopus to catch every one of his shots. It’s easier for me to play against such players as John Carlson, he’s got a powerful shot but it’s predictable. We tried it, but Alex is an experienced player and he knows how to make space to shoot. Don’t know where he learned it.
Maxim Nikerin: Probably in Dynamo Moscow!
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Ha! Don’t know, but he’s been playing in the NHL for 13 years, every goalie know what he’s going to do, but people still don’t know how to handle with Ovechkin. I’ve talked to many goalies, they’re all telling you the same thing: you’re almost catching the puck but it’s still falling through in the last second.
Maxim Nikerin: Is he the most dangerous player who played against you?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: They’re all dangerous. Every team has their stars: Jack Eichel in Buffalo, Auston Matthews in Toronto, etc.
Maxim Nikerin: Who is the most difficult for you?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Filip Forsberg from Predators. He’s the same age and we played a lot against each other. He scores every time. Can’t remember a game when he didn’t score.
Maxim Nikerin: Why is that?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Probably I’m his favorite goalie. He scored two times last season.
Maxim Nikerin: Have you talked with Russian players from Washington during the playoffs? Probably went to the restaurant?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Not at all. There wasn’t time for it. We are like boxers, first we’re beating each other and then hugging. I’m speaking about myself, maybe others spent time together, but don’t think so.
Maxim Nikerin: Who is more dangerous? Ovechkin or Kucherov?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: They both are very dangerous but different players. Ovie has his great shot and athleticism, Kuch has skills and speed.
Maxim Nikerin: Tell me about your behind-the-back save against Los Angeles. Such saves can only be done on instincts?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: No, I calculated everything: I saw if player was left-handed or right-handed, left the space, also my peripheral vision is great. He shot, and I just put my hand behind me and catch the puck, that was easy.
Maxim Nikerin: You’re joking, but in couple of weeks you did the same thing.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: To be serious, it was a pure luck, how could you even learn it?
Maxim Nikerin: But you did it two times.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: The second one was a reflection.
Maxim Nikerin: Ovechkin once scored laying on his back against Phoenix. It’s been 12 years he couldn’t do it again.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: The first time was luck. I didn’t know what to do so I just put my hand behind me and the puck got to the glove. And I could reach the puck by my glove against Montreal but it just reflected. You couldn’t learn it. It’s just an instinct.
Maxim Nikerin: What has happened on the ice after this moment?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Anton Stralman said to me that it was a nice save. The referee came to me and congratulate. They showed a review on the cube, so people did a standing ovation. I thought that it was probably impressive, and I need to see it. Then we watched it in the locker room. It turned out to be beautiful.
Maxim Nikerin: Do referees come to you to congratulate after every game?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Yes, mostly linesmen. They are friendly, but it seems that people don’t like them. By the way, a Russian referee worked in the NHL last season. We also greet each other, it was a game against Anaheim. I knew that there is a Russian referee in the NHL but haven’t met him before.
Maxim Nikerin: People say that you want to fight another goalie. You tried it with Tuukka Rask last season.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: I saw that Tuukka started to get into the fight with our players. And it’s believed that goalies should fight each other. Yes, I wanted to do it for a long time, but there is no opportunity.
Maxim Nikerin: Just say that you want to beat someone in the NHL.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Yes (he’s laughing), but if you’ll get suspension till the end of the game, you will let the team down.
Maxim Nikerin: That was the end of season, probably you can afford it on the start of the new one?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Maybe, but then referee just said to me that we both will spend the rest of the game in the locker room.
Maxim Nikerin: How did this situation end?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: When I came there, Tuukka was already calm and didn’t want to fight. If he wasn’t I wouldn’t care about what referee said. But guys liked it anyway.
Maxim Nikerin: Did coach like it too?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Yes, he didn’t mind.
Maxim Nikerin: What goalie you wanna fight?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Fights on the ice couldn’t be easy so it doesn’t matter for me.
Maxim Nikerin: Do you know how to fight in the goalkeeper equipment?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: You just need to take off gloves and mask and then chest protector during the fight.
Maxim Nikerin: What if you wouldn’t be able to take off your chest protector?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: We’re gonna fight like two sumo wrestlers, then.
Maxim Nikerin: You have a contract with Bauer. They made hard pads and I’ve heard that players, because of this fact, are trying to shoot into them in hope of deflection.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Yes, they have such a feature. But every pads have their pluses and minuses. If pads are soft, puck can deflect right in front of you so you can get the puck, but if there is also a player in front of you, he can send puck to the net. It deflects faster when you have a harder pads, so player in front of you couldn’t handle the puck and you will have some time.
Maxim Nikerin: Did you always play in hard pads?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Yes, since I got chance to order goaltending equipment, it was even before Bauer.
Maxim Nikerin: Did the opponents always analyze even such things as equipment?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Sure, goalies are always well analyzed, but not sure about equipment.
Maxim Nikerin: Your mask was named the best in the NHL last season. Why?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: I have a cat on the top of it and everyone loves cats.
The winner for Best Goalie Mask is... Andrei Vasilevskiy! His cage changes color based on the surrounding temperature. ️— NHL (@NHL) June 13, 2018
Who got snubbed? Let us know! #NHLFanChoice pic.twitter.com/FyODCRuThp
Maxim Nikerin: You have a lion.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Lions are also cats.
Maxim Nikerin: By the way, why did you choose lion?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: First of all, my zodiac sign is lion. Secondly, I love cats. And finally, I have a lion in my name (VasiLEVskiy (Василевский), Lev (Лев) is lion in russian). Let this be an explanation, sounds funny.
Maxim Nikerin: Let’s return to your mask…
Andrei Vasilevskiy: I have a Russian symbol on the sides, very beautiful, many lightnings, some blue chrome and my number 88 on the chin. I’m not surprised that my mask won. It’s very beautiful. The new mask is almost the same.
Maxim Nikerin: What did you do with old masks?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: Nothing. Just give it to the warehouse.
Maxim Nikerin: Don’t you want to keep for yourself?
Andrei Vasilevskiy: You need to ask, I was never interested. Probably I’ll keep one later.