Tampa Bay Lightning G Andrei Vasilevskiy Has A Chance To Shine

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

With Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop sidelined 3-4 weeks with a Lower-Body Injury, netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy has a unique opportunity to shine.

Ever since the Tampa Bay Lightning brought goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to the main roster in the 2014-15 season, there have been ramblings about the “goalie situation” and who would be getting the top job. Unfortunately, as the years have passed, Lightning fans continue to have the same conversation.

There are those in the Bolts Nation who are set in the fact that Andrei Vasilevskiy is the future of Tampa Bay Lightning goaltending and that his time is nearing; especially considering Ben Bishop is in the final year of his contract with the Bolts.

At the same time, there are those fans who believe Andrei Vasilevskiy needs a few more years backing up Ben Bishop before he’ll be ready to take the reins from Bishop and really be the Tampa Bay Lightning’s number one goalie.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

Of course, if you ask Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper, he’ll tell you Bishop and Vasilevskiy are not the number one and number two goalies, but more like one-a and one-b.

Over the course of the last few seasons, Andrei Vasilevskiy hasn’t received a whole lot of playing time. In the last three seasons, Vasilevskiy has started in a grand total of 48 games. In that amount of time, he’s maintained a 26-20-2 record with a Goals Allowed Average of 2.58 and a Save Percentage of .915.

Much of the playing time Vasilevskiy has seen over the past couple of seasons has come from a number of conditioning reassignments to the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. If Vasilevskiy has any hopes of taking over the top spot, he will need to get a lot more ice time.

The question is, how do you get more ice time for Vasilevskiy without disturbing the natural order of things? Well, it seems as if Andrei Vasilevskiy may finally have the opportunity he has been waiting for. Unfortunately, it has come under what one could easily consider less-than-ideal circumstances.

After leaving the game early in the first period on December 20th as the Tampa Bay Lightning took on the Detroit Red Wings, a game in which the Lightning would go on to win 4-1, Andrei Vasilevskiy would be called upon to save the day. As you can see, he did fairly well in his adventure.

Unfortunately, the next day the Bolts Nation received some rather unfavorable news. It seems Ben Bishop sustained a Lower-Body injury on the ice and would be forced to miss the next 3-4 weeks.

As one could easily imagine, the Lightning had to make a phone call to Syracuse to find someone to help Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes. This is where goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis comes into play. Of course, this means that Vasilevskiy has now taken the reins between the pipes.

Related Story: Ben Bishop To Miss 3-4 Weeks With A Lower-Body Injury

This could prove to be the opportunity Vasilevskiy has been looking for. Obviously, he will be carrying the majority of the load while Bishop rehabs his injury. Should Vasilevskiy do well during this period, it will give some of his detractors a little more faith in his ability to carry the Lightning’s goaltending into the future.

At the same time, should this adventure not go according to plan, it could cause the Tampa Bay Lightning to rethink their plan for the immediate future.

Unfortunately, Andrei Vasilevskiy’s “first day on the job” didn’t go quite the way Lightning fans would’ve hoped. On Friday night, the after putting together back-to-back wins for the first time since November 19th, were shutout by the Washington Capitals 4-0 at the Verizon Center in DC.

After stopping 20 of 24 shots on goal, Vasilevskiy ended the night with a Save Percentage of .833. This is nothing compared to the .918 Save Percentage Vasilevskiy currently carries this season. While some people may rush to blame Vasilevskiy for the loss, even though a couple of those goals were softies, Vasy didn’t exactly have a lot of help in front of the net that night.

Next: Bolts Who Need To Step Up In Absence Of Leadership

In any case, it will most certainly be interesting to see how the next three-plus weeks are going to play out. There is a lot on the line here, and the results of the next couple of weeks could have a tremendous impact on the future of the team and the direction they’ll take. The one thing we know for sure is, we don’t want to miss a moment of the action.