With Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop on injured reserve, Andrei Vasilevskiy was handed a major opportunity to show he’s worthy of the starting role. He hasn’t made the most of the opportunity though, going 3-3-1 with a 3.38 GAA and a .874 SV% in seven starts since Bishop was hurt and admitted to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times that the pressure is getting to him a bit:
“A little emotionally tired. I’m thinking about it too much.”
With Bishop expected to return within the next couple of weeks, the 22 year old only will have a few more chances to make an impression on head coach Jon Cooper. Further adding to the pressure is that the Lightning, a Conference Finalist last year, find themselves on the outside looking in at a playoff spot at the moment.
Even though his first stint as a starter hasn’t gone as well as anyone had hoped for, Vasilievskiy is still Tampa’s expected starter of the not-too-distant future. They handed him a three year, $10.5MM extension back in July and given who they still have to re-sign this coming offseason (Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Jonathan Drouin, among others), it’s unlikely they’ll still have the cap space to bring Bishop back next season which should press Vasilevskiy into the number one role, ready or not.
More goalie notes from around the NHL:
- Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling has been on a nice little run as of late. Over the last month, he has posted a 7-2-1 record with a GAA of 2.01 and a .935 SV%. The extra ice time came as a result of Corey Crawford’s appendectomy and some back-to-back games but as Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune notes, Chicago has reached a soft spot in their schedule and don’t have any back-to-back games scheduled for more than a month. As a result, the Blackhawks are going to have some difficulties finding Darling some playing time as the plan has been to use him primarily in those situations.
- Sabres backup Anders Nilsson has been one of Buffalo’s more pleasant surprises this season, writes Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald. He has a .926 SV% through 13 games, tied for seventh league-wide among goalies with at least ten appearances and is becoming a threat to steal some starts from Robin Lehner. Nilsson credits his success to his time in the KHL back in 2014-15 where he led the league in GAA: “If I didn’t have a good year that year, I wouldn’t have been able to come back. I developed a lot as a goalie that year. That year has definitely helped me a lot in my development. I don’t think I would’ve been here if I didn’t make that step.” Buffalo acquired Nilsson back in July from St. Louis in exchange for a fifth round pick in the upcoming draft, a deal that has proven to be quite the steal so far.