Despite an impressive season in the net, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy learned one valuable lesson by the end of the year: Rest is a good thing. The 24-year-old netminder put up amazing numbers, including playing in a career-high 65 games and posting a .920 save percentage (also a career-high) which was good enough to earn him third place in the Vezina Trophy voting. Regardless, Vasilevskiy wore down in the second half, saying he was both physically and mentally fatigued by the end of the season.
Joe Smith of The Athletic (subscription required) writes the response was to take two months off from hockey this summer. Vasilevskiy had never played more than 50 games in a season before last year and finished fourth in games played behind Cam Talbot, Frederik Andersen and Sergei Bobrovsky. Tampa Bay goaltending coach Frantz Jean said the ideal number should be between 55 to 65 games. However, Vasilevskiy has changed many of his routines within the last six months in order to rest his body more and more, including doing post-game workouts immediately after games, so he can rest his body completely on off days.
“I think it was hard for him in the past to step back, but I think last year once we got to that second half of the season, I think he was actually open to taking a little more time off,” Jean said. “When we’re going in practice, we go hard. We work hard. I think he understood he needed that rest time, to allow his body and mind to kind of refresh.”
- Count Jack Eichel as a player that is really looking forward to training camp this season after a successful offseason for the Buffalo Sabres, according to NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin. The 21-year-old superstar who saw his team struggle with constant losing the last couple of years sees an immediate change in the clubhouse. The Sabres drafted Rasmus Dahlin with the first-overall pick this year, traded for Jeff Skinner, Conor Sheary and signed goaltender Carter Hutton as well as add quite a bit of veteran depth to the team. “There’s a lot of new faces in there,” Eichel said. “So I think a lot of the people with a sour taste in their mouths from the last few years have either gotten over it or aren’t in the locker room anymore. I think it’s a good opportunity for us to just prove ourselves to the League and prove ourselves to ourselves.”
- After an injury plagued year for the Boston Bruins, forward David Backes re-dedicated himself this offseason, according to Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont. The 34-year-old winger has seen his game decline over the past three years and found himself putting up just 14 goals and 33 points in 57 games. However, he lost 10 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame and now stands a much leaner 210 pounds, which he hopes can help him increase his speed and help him avoid injuries this season. Backes, who is signed for another three seasons at $6MM per year, is hoping to move up from the third line last year to a top-six role this season. “I’ve played with a 220-pound frame for 8-10 years in the league, and now it’s going to be a little lighter and a little leaner,” Backes said. “It’s my attempt to adapt to what changes have gone on in the league. It might just swing back the other way and be a heavier, harder league. But it’s certainly more skillful and quick, and that’s just the realization I had to make.”
- NHL.com’s Matt Cudzinowski writes that Montreal Canadiens center Jake Evans has high hopes to make the team out of training camp this year. The 22-year-old, who finished four years at Notre Dame, last offseason is finally healthy after requiring surgery in May to repair a sports hernia and now hopes he can take on his next challenge as he’s been practicing with Dallas’ Tyler Seguin and Washington’s Tom Wilson this summer. As a senior, he tallied 13 goals and 46 points last season for the Fighting Irish and now hopes to take his talents directly to Montreal. “I want to go in with a mindset of making the Canadiens, but I also need to go in open-minded and ready to learn from guys who’ve been there for a long time – how they handle their bodies, how they act,” concluded Evans.