Andrei Vasilevskiy was drafted 19th overall in 2012. I had the pleasure of covering his first NHL game. That was against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Lightning got a 3-1 win. During that game, I noted that he sparked the team.
“I was very nervous. In a couple of moments, I didn’t play very good because I was nervous. But after first period, I started to play not too bad,” said Vasilevskiy.
A younger Steve Stamkos said this after that game.
“Maybe, I mean it’s weird how sports work sometimes. A little change, guys obviously want to win for him and his first start. It was a great game for us as a team today, as we were down 1-0,” said captain, Steve Stamkos. “We could have said here we go again with the way things have been going, especially after hitting a couple of posts, and their goalie made some great saves. We showed the character and work ethic that we have, and we really deserve that win tonight.”
2021 Stamkos had this to say about his goalie, who has won a Stanley Cup and maybe the biggest reason they’re in the position to win another.
“For a few of us that have been around for a while, this is our third Final. It’s pretty amazing, and you look back at those years and see how far we’ve come.”
Stamkos is the second-best player in the history of the franchise. I believe that Vasilevskiy is the best. Kucherov is third if you’re keeping score. They’re all very important to the scope of the team, so is Victor Hedman, but without their Russian netminder, do they win anything? I don’t think so.
Vasilevskiy is a generational goalie. Most talk about Carey Price in those terms but don’t Vasilevskiy always say that about Tampa’s star. If Tampa wins another Cup, Vasilevskiy will be the only Russian netminder to do that. He’s the one, and he might not be done. But let’s see how this shakes out first.
Vasilevskiy is 26 for another month. When Nikolai Khabibulin became the first Russian backstop to win the Cup, also with Tampa, he was 31. So having this goalie during his prime, at such a young age, could mean more Cups could be in his future.
“It’s all about experience and how is your team playing in front of you. In the last two playoffs, we’ve been pretty consistent through all four rounds. You just try and play your best every night for the guys.”
Drop the puck. Let’s get this started.