Andrei Vasilevskiy. Bolts nation knows the name. Soon, the world will, if they don’t already… The Tampa Bay Lightning puck-stopper has many a time been compared to a feline. A “Big Cat,” due to his quick movements and highlight-reel acrobatics. However, ‘Vasy’ as he’s known, is more than just a flashy save or a chant inside Amalie Arena. Quickly, he’s becoming one of the best to play the position, and has a knack for the big moment. No moment too big for him.
How does one measure a goalie? Quickness? Acrobatics? Overall efficiency, or statistics? All are valid and make their impact on a goalie’s legacy. At the ripe age of just 26, the ‘Big Cat,’ Vasilevskiy, is creeping towards legend status. Pause. He’s no Ken Dryden, or even Carey Price yet. Or is he a Price-type calibre? The numbers truly speak for themselves, as does the situational excellence. Let’s take a deep dive, shall we?
Been there. Done that.
Already, Vasilevskiy has played in his fair share of postseason nail-biters. In fact, his minutes in last year’s postseason year put him #1 in that particular category all-time, with 1708 minutes amassed. And, yeah, he was alright. Vasilevskiy is 17th with a .922 save-percentage in the dance. An improvement of .003 moves him into top 10 all time. Did I mention he’s 26 years old?
Legends aren’t born overnight
While Bolts nation is ready to prematurely raise #88 to the rafters and build a statue outside Amalie, to a degree, there is lots of hockey in front of the Russian tendy in all seriousness. It’s time to compare him to some absolute icons. Because, in fairness, he’s in the conversation. Deep dive o’clock again, comparing the status and ability of Vasilevskiy to hockey gods between the pipes.
Roy. Belfour. Vasilevskiy?
These are big names to older hockey fans. They remember the stellar play of the aforementioned duo. Now, they see the passing of the torch, from names like Martin Brodeur and Carey Price, to the feline himself. The wizard. You know by now we’re referencing 88 in blue.
Juggling the stats and observing the play of goalies who played in different eras of the game is quite literally like comparing apples and oranges. However, they’re similar in a lot of ways. Juicy. Unlike the rebounds these goaltenders spit out.
Cutting to the chase, Vasilevskiy possesses a career goals-against (min. 50 games played) of 2.32. That puts him within a few saves of catching hall-of-famers like Patrick Roy and. Eddie Belfour. Is he bound for the Hall? Difficult question. He just has so long to go. Goaltending is not easy. At all. Will he land there if he keeps up this play? Without. A. Doubt.
Beaten? Rarely for Vasilevskiy
The goal of hockey is simple. Score more than the opposition. Easier said than done against ‘Vasy’ as he is known in the Bay. In fact, it’s near impossible when he’s wide-eyed and locked in. Boy, is he flexible. Boy, is he tough to crack in a big game.
Top ten talent all-time
Ten is a weird number. You’re talking tacos eaten or drinks past your limit, that’s a large digit. Talking hockey? Top ten in any category means one thing. You’re in the G.O.A.T conversation, assuming you maintain that pace.
Vasilevskiy can proudly vouch he is number nine in the category of saves in a postseason year.
Most of the goalies on this particular list are modern-era. That’s simply because there are more shots nowadays, especially in the postseason. Goalies must be sharp, as it all goes to the net. Find the full list here.
Tim Thomas? Tim Thomas.
The above name is an interesting one. Remember him? Remember his unique helmet? Or, do you recall his ridiculous run to Stanley’s mug with the B’s in the 2010-11 season?
He tops this unique stat, with an unconscious 798 stops. That’s in just 25 contests, by the way. Jaw dropped? Well, 88 in Tampa is not far behind. He sits, as mentioned, ninth, gathering 686 in as many games.
Defence wins championships
The Bruins that year? Literally as scary as a grizzly bear, with a prime-of-his-career Zdeno Chara headlining a beast of a blueline. Yet, it’s hard to measure a team’s defence by big names, or big men in 6’9 Chara’s case.
The true test is high danger chances. While we won’t bore you with a high-danger chance stat, the Lightning give up their fair share. Which makes this measure an interesting, interpretative one. So, say what you will about #9 for Vasy, he works for his lunch money.
Cups to come
Vasilevskiy has one cup to his name. Dryden had six in seven years. Was the league smaller? Absolutely. Will Vasy get there? Probably not. However, he is not tapping out early, that’s a guarantee.
Gillespie-Wilson’s take: Vasilevskiy is king of the modern game
So, here we are. How good is this guy, really? Again. VERY. The question becomes, where does he slot in to all-time and current goalies? Modern era? He’s the cream of the gosh-forsaken crop.
- Playoff Carey Price
- Marc Andre Fleury
- Connor Hellebuyck
- Vasy again??
- Regular Price
Realistically, one of these lists is incredibly difficult to put together. As good as Hellebuyck is on an average team, Vasilevskiy is far more consistent. Price-Vasilevskiy SCF dancing in your head at night? Yes. Me too. That’s why playoff Price cracks the list early. Fleury is the best all-around goalie in the NHL that doesn’t play in Tampa Bay, regardless of a crucial mistake in Montreal’s win on Friday night.
A win in which Playoff Price showed up in spades, shutting the door all night long. 45-27 were the shots in favour of the road Knights. Habs win in OT. An iconic performance. Something tells me Vasilevskiy has one or two of those games on the horizon. Best in the league at the moment, without a doubt: Vasy all day.
Dan Herrejon breaks down the old-timers
Sometimes being the old guy has its perks. Being the only writer on staff who saw goalies play without masks, here’s my two cents. Should Vasilevskiy finish in the top 10 in multiple categories, he will be among some of the greatest goalies ever.
Names like Jacques Plante and Terry Sawchuk who both played the majority of their careers without a mask. Tony Esposito and Ken Dryden in the 1970’s. Billy Smith and Grant Fuhr in the 1980’s.
Both Plante and Sawchuk were considered top netminders in their era (1950’s-1960’s). Plante was the goalie for those strong Montreal Canadien teams that won the Stanley Cup 6 times. Sawchuk was a four time Vezina Trophy winner, elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame the year after his retirement. One of only 10 players in history who didn’t have to wait for the three year waiting period.
Esposito and Dryden were rivals and met in one Stanley Cup Final in 1971. Montreal beat Chicago in a seven game series but both goalies lived up to their hype. Both also are hall of famers. Smith and Fuhr in the wild 80’s were on teams that both won four consecutive Stanley Cups. Smith was the first goalie in history to actually score a goal. Fuhr was the first black hockey player to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
This is the rarified air that Vasilevsky is reaching. To be talked about in the company of these giants of the game is not only exciting for Vasy but well deserved.
Coverage all playoffs of the big cat and company
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