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Lightning Round: Andrei Vasilevskiy remains good at hockey

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The Big Cat has won ten straight for the third time in his career

Chicago Blackhawks v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images

Andrei Vasilevskiy doesn’t think he’s played his best games over the his current ten-game winning streak. If you’re a member of the the Central Division that has to worry you a little bit, because he’s been pretty good during the streak. The 26-year-old goaltender now has three different ten-game winning streaks in his seven-year career. That puts him in pretty good company:

The streak started off pretty well as he stopped 107 out of 109 shots (.981 SV%) and posted three shutouts in four games. Over the next six wins his numbers were good instead of extraordinary. His overall save percentage dropped to .902 and his goals saved above average was only .02. At 5v5 he’s still been pretty good, though. The save percentage jumps to .945 and his GSAA is a respectable 4.17. So, he’s pretty good for the vast majority of the game.

His Achilles’ heel has been shorthanded. The Lightning have allowed a power play goal in each of those six starts and his save percentage dips to .684 with a -3.20 GSAA when the Bolts are down a player. Prior to that stretch he was at .899 and 2.90 respectively. So if his teammates could stay out of the box, that would be really cool for everybody. Also, he’s bound to raise that .684 number fairly soon and then the Vezina talk begins anew.

“He makes every save look easy,” is how Yanni Gourde put it after the game. That’s pretty much Vasilevskiy in a nutshell. With his athleticism and positioning Vasy makes the tough save look easy. Case in point:

At slow motion and in gif form this save looks kind of routine. At full speed it really is a tremendous save. The Chicago player with the puck at the beginning of the clip is a threat to shoot the puck from a fairly decent scoring area. Vasilevskiy has to respect that and square up to him.

The motion used to pass the puck is deceptive as well and Vasy can’t be too quick to move to the player breaking in on him to his right. Once the pass gets past the Lightning defender it should be a quick deflection goal, Vasilevskiy is so quick to get his right pad over in position and on the ice. If you watch closely, it looks like he actually thinks a shot is coming and makes a slight adjustment when he’s already on the ice to change the angle of his pad to deflect the puck away. That is not an easy, or a natural move.

While his numbers over the last couple of weeks haven’t been at the level that he set through last year’s playoffs or the early part of this season, Vasilevskiy still has the knack for making the right save at the right time. On the save referenced above, the score is tied at 2. A Chicago goal at that point flips the momentum of the game. Instead of starting the third tied, the Lightning would be chasing the game in the final frame.

Over the past two seasons the number of times he’s bailed the Lightning out in the first period and then watched as the offense got rolling are innumerable. It’s almost become his trademark. If a goalie isn’t going to make 96% of the saves it’s better that he makes 10 or 15 at the right time.

Lightning Links

Lightning beat Chicago, 4-2

Once the Lightning took the lead they shut the ‘Hawks down in the third period. Another win for Vasilevskiy and the second-tier scoring led the way (Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde, Ross Colton, and Victor Hedman).

Chicago lost 4-2 to Tampa Bay

From the Chicago side, there was some positive (Dylan Strome returned and scored) and some negative (the top line didn’t have a shot at 5v5).

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