Tampa Bay Lightning: What is the Magic Number for Vasilevskiy?

Apr 29, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) reacts after losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime during game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) reacts after losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime during game six of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /
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One of the prevailing feelings following the conclusion of the 2022-23 season for the Tampa Bay Lightning was that it might be time to dial back Andrei Vasilevskiy’s workload. Even with a longer summer this year after three straight shortened ones, Tampa Bay still might look to decrease Vasilevskiy’s regular season time in the starting crease.

After the Lightning were eliminated in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Vasilevskiy shared that as this most recent season wore on, his mind and body were not on the same page and that he had a number of small injuries that he continued to push through.

Vasilevskiy wants to be the man in the Lightning net and one of the greatest in the world. His drive to be successful is matched by few. Still, even he could admit that with the incredible workload he has shouldered in recent years, it may be time to dial it back a bit.

Over the last four seasons, Vasilevskiy has played in 294 total games in the regular season and playoffs. No other goalie in the NHL even comes close to that number. The next closest to him is Conner Hellebuyck with 256. Vasilevskiy consistently finds himself among the top goalies in regular season starts each year but the long playoff runs have put him far ahead of everybody else.

After having two seasons in a row shortened during the pandemic, the last two season have been full 82 game seasons. This past season, he started 60 games, down from starting 63 in 2021-22. After revealing what he did about all of the injuries he was battling through and not focusing enough on recovery, it would be surprising if Vasilevskiy reaches 60 starts again next season. As mentioned before, he does have a longer summer for the first time in years but the Lightning would still want to have him as fresh as possible for the playoffs.

If the Lightning want to increase Vasilevskiy’s recovery time as much as possible and still have him play the majority of the games, that would probably bring his starts in a season down to around 55 or so. Since becoming the full time Lightning starter in 2017-18, Vasilevskiy has only had fewer than 55 starts once. Two of those were in pandemic shortened seasons. The other was 2018-19 when Vasilsvkiy won the Vezina Trophy. In that season, he missed about a month’s worth of time due to injury.

If you are going to bring Vasilevskiy’s starts to around 55, that means another goaltender will be starting the other 27 games. In Vasilevskiy’s time as the starting goaltender, the Lightning have probably not had a backup they are comfortable starting that many games while the best goalie in the world sits by the bench.

A new backup goalie for Vasilevskiy will play a big role in determining how many games the Big Cat will play. At the end of the day, the Lightning would probably like to continue decreasing his starts. Any decrease though will likely not be a dramatic change. Four or five additional games off from what he had last year could make a big difference in the quality of play we see from him down the road in the playoffs.

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