Following a season in which many, not limited to just Tampa Bay Lightning fans assumed that Andrei Vasilevskiy was a lock to win the NHL’s top prize for a goalie, the Vezina Trophy, preseason odds -once again- have Vasilevskiy as the favorite to win the Trophy.
Veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights was named the best goalie in the NHL after last season when he received his first Vezina Trophy. It was a close race to the end with the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, who finished as the runner-up. While we won’t discredit what 36-year-old Fleury did last season, because statistically, he put together the best season of his 17-year career, was he truly the best goaltender in the league?
Nikita Kucherov certainly saw things differently as his now-famous catchphrase “number one bulls**t” rings in the ears of the entire Lightning fanbase. This very well could be an ongoing debate for years to come as many regarded Vasilevskiy as the best goalie in the world. Having started in seven more games that Fleury, Vasilevskiy (.925) finished with a save percentage three one-thousandths of a point behind Fleury’s .928. On the other side of that spectrum, Vasilevskiy had 226 more saves than Fleury on the season. Fleury did, in fact, have six shutouts to Vasilevskiy’s five; however, Fleury also had three games where his save percentage was lower than 85%, whereas Vasilevskiy had a goose egg- that’s a good zero. Thanks to our friends at Stathead, we were able to see the numbers side-by-side to dissect them.
Looking ahead to the future.
According to our partners at WynnBet, Vasilevskiy is set to win his first Vezina this season in a landslide fashion- per the NHL futures odds. With a +400 ranking, the odds of being named the best goaltender in the league are a staggering 4-to-1. After rumors of retirement after being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, Fleury is in the second slot at +800, tied with Seattle Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer. ESPN’s NHL fantasy projections have Vasilevskiy projected as the No. 1 overall rated player, not just for goalies.
While the Bolts experienced some changes this offseason, namely losing Yanni Gourde to the Kraken in the expansion draft and trading Tyler Johnson to the Blackhawks, the team is still in great shape overall to be considered a serious contender– which in return will help Vasi on his quest to win his second (of an assumed many more) Vezina Trophies.
You will hear things attempting to deter you from going all-in on the Lightning’s goaltender, but steer clear. A condensed season is amongst the most popular topics of debate, so let’s look inside the last full-length season that the Lightning played in the NHL in 2018-2019. Again, we will call our friends at Stathead for the number line-up and see that argument holds little to no weight.
- 53 games played
- 1585 saves
- .925 save percentage
- 6 shutouts
- 42 games played
- 1144 saves
- .925 save percentage
- 5 shutouts
The old adage of numbers don’t lie remains undefeated as the condensed season’s stats track with the last full seasons, if not better. Vasilevskiy has quietly put together quite a career resume. In fact, he is on pace, and in some cases, ahead of all-time great Patrick Roy, as we showed in a Tweet last week.
We should expect to see Vasilevskiy appointed the best goaltender in the league upon the conclusion of the 2022 season, as he continues to add to his career resume and legacy. If that doesn’t happen again this season, perhaps we will grow to love another Kucherov phrase summing up the highway robbery.