It’s no surprise that the Tampa Bay Lightning’s goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Conn Smythe trophy last season; however, it was a surprise that he was not the recipient of the NHL’s Vezina award; being named the best goalie. In hindsight, a second Stanley Cup championship and being named the league’s most valuable player in the playoffs most likely weighs heavier, albeit you still have a feeling that Vasilevskiy was snubbed.
As we are south of 60 days until the NHL’s regular-season commences -57 to be exact- the NHL’s YouTube page has put together top highlights from the 2020-2021 season, and the latest video features none other than the Lightning’s own, Vasilevskiy.
Vasilevskiy is in an interesting place. While the Lightning have won the championship in consecutive years, some feel that he’s a profit of circumstance, while others believe he’s a pivotal piece for the Bolts’ continued success. Dissecting the stats, Vasilevskiy saw the second-most shots in the league in 2021 with 1237, only trailing the Winnipeg Jets Connor Hellebuyck with 1335. What truly sets Vasilevskiy apart is stopping .925% of those shots to accumulate 1144 saves (also, second-best behind Hellebuyck) in three fewer games.
The assumption that the Lightning were proverbially running over teams because they were the most complete team in the league isn’t quite accurate, as the stats show that Vasilevskiy faced a plethora of shots on goal last season. Out of the 42 games the Lightning’s number one goaltender played last season, he never stopped less than 85% of attempted goals. For comparison, in 2019-2020, Vasilevskiy had seven games with less a save percentage lower than 85%, in 52 games.
Perhaps, the current odds-on favorite to win the Vezina is actually improving and will continue his trek to put his name amongst the game’s all-time great goaltenders. While we are a very long 57 days away from the 2021 season, enjoy some of the best saves of last season.