A favorite for much of the season, Tampa Bay Lightning starter Andrei Vasilevskiy has been voted as one of the top three goaltenders in the league for the 2017-18 season. Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators and Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets have also been voted finalists.
The offseason saw countless articles wondering whether Vasy could backstop what was poised to be a top-tier team in the league for an entire season (not us). Some questioned whether he had the ability to step into Ben Bishop’s enormous shoes, especially to replicate play that Bishop earned by experience, and to sustain what he’s been able to do for a full season.
This past season, Vasilevskiy killed all of those concerns. Vasy finished the season with 44 wins in 65 games, first in wins and fourth-most in games played in the league. His .920 save percentage this season, a 0.03 point increase from his save percentage last season, was near the top of the league for the majority of the season until near the end when it fell to 12th.
Vasilevskiy set franchise records in wins (44) and shutouts (8) to propel the @TBLightning to their best season ever.— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 17, 2018
He became the 12th different goalie in NHL history to finish a season with at least a share of the NHL lead in wins prior to his 24th birthday. #NHLAwards pic.twitter.com/hdUiM2VGxd
Except for public outcry when he said he felt tired, Vasilevskiy has proven he is an NHL starting goaltender, and among the cream of the crop at the position. At 23-years-old and with a $3.5 million contract for the next two seasons, he’s also one of the most valuable players in the league as well.
Vasilevskiy has not only been solid and consistant all year, he’s been dynamic and a game-stealer for the Lightning during moments of poor play by the skaters in front of him. He lost three games in a row only once all season and posted an incredible personal winning streak of nine in a row right at the start of the season — where the majority of the praise for the team should’ve been directed at Vasy instead of the forwards who were also scoring at an outstanding rate.
And we can’t forget his new signature move:
All in all, Vasy has a very strong case to win the award but Hellebuyck and Rinne’s hot play late in the season, coupled with the fact that those two have also had bounce-back seasons could sway voters in their favor.
But this week, Vasilevskiy has bigger goals than the Vezina.