Day after thoughts: Guess who’s back! Back again! Vasy’s back! Tell a friend!

What a wonderful return!

It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these after a Tampa Bay Lightning game. I usually ended up doing these after playoff games to give some of my personal thoughts on the previous night’s game. Usually during the regular season, I don’t have as strong an urge to do one of these articles. But the return of Andrei Vasilevskiy to the line-up felt like it was well worth it.

I know there was a lot of chatter on Twitter about how Vasilevskiy shouldn’t come back from injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs. About how Cooper should stick with the hot hand in Louis Domingue. That Vasilevskiy should take a conditioning stint with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL before returning.

Well, all I have to say is... what a friggin’ night! I’ll admit, I was a bit worried that if the Lightning didn’t come out and play a strong game it could go south very quickly. Vasilevskiy let in that first goal off of a bad Nikita Kucherov turnover in the defensive zone. Give Kasperi Kapanen credit on the shot too, because it was a perfectly placed shot that went bar down.

But after that? Vasilevskiy was a stone wall. He showed exactly why he was a Vezina finalist last season. Despite a four-week break, he looked like he hadn’t missed a single game in shutting down the Maple Leafs offense. Towards the end of the game, I was reminded of this picture I took of my TV a while back when Mathieu Garon had an absolutely ridiculous game. And it would have been very fitting for Fox Sports Sun to have re-used the graphic for Vasilevskiy.

The Lightning have been goalied in a few games this year. Two games in particular stick out for me. The first game, the Lightning lost 2-1 at home against the Nashville Predators with Pekka Rinne making 42 saves as the Lightning outshot the Preds 43-24. The other one was in Buffalo when the Lightning lost 2-1 to the Sabres while outshooting them 30-19 and Carter Hutton standing on his head.

This time, the Lightning got to do it to another team. The Lightning were rather putrid through much of the game, especially in the second period when they gave the Maple Leafs three power plays. Thankfully, Kucherov was able to redeem himself from his bad turnover in the first by firing a one-timer on an early power play. Frederick Andersen gloved the puck, but his glove went over the line and with his glove open and the puck visible from overhead on a couple of camera angles, it was ruled a good goal.

The last few minutes of the second period though, the Lightning found some momentum and victimized Andersen with two more goals from Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson.

Oh, I also have to mention Anthony Cirelli’s shorthanded goal that got the goal scoring going in the first period. Ryan Callahan made a great play while falling to the ice to spring Cirelli on the breakaway. Cirelli doesn’t have elite offensive skills, but he’s been showing some really nice moves on breakaways to find ways to beat the goaltender at the other end of the ice.

Cirelli’s third shorthanded goal puts him into a tie for 7th most by a Lightning player in a season. He’s tied with 12 other players in that spot. He still has a ways to go to beat Martin St. Louis’ franchise record of eight short handed goals in a season set back in 2003-04. But he’s only two goals away from Tyler Johnson’s rookie record of five shorties set in 2013-14. Also should point out here that his three game-winning goals are only two away from Yanni Gourde’s rookie record of five set last season.

Overall, this was probably one the best games of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs in terms of possession and one of the Lightning’s worst. The difference was Andrei Vasilevskiy and it sure feels great to have him back.

Guess who’s back! Back again! Vasy’s back! Tell a friend!