Vasilevski, Andrei

NHL Game Night: 1-9-10 Lightning at Canucks

Lightning pull another one out on this western swing.

TB-3
VAN-2 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the OT victory. He didn't have a ton of work but made a small handful of timely saves. I'm also willing to bet part of the reason Vancouver missed the net on a few of their chances is that Vasilevskiy's size and positioning make a shooter cut it a little too fine at times.

First Period
3:41 TB Killorn (7), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)
15:24 VAN Baertschi (7), (Horvat, Weber)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
12:20 TB Filppula (5), (Stralman, Callahan)
17:10 VAN Horvat (6), (Hutton, Biega)

Overtime
3:51 TB Kucherov (16), (Namestnikov, Stralman)

Nikita Kucherov and Valtteri Filppula were the game's second and third stars.

Thankfully, the ending of this game had some flair to it, because the bulk of this game was as boring as the previous two games on this road trip. The Lightning came out with a lot more energy in this contest and deserved the early 1-0 lead, but got in the box and eventually forfeited momentum and the lead before heading to First Intermission. The game really devolved into a defensive struggle in the Second Period with the Lightning squandering several PP opportunities in the middle frame before finally breaking through just after a PP in the Third Period when a Filppula centering feed banked in off of Edler's skate. It's another lucky goal, true. But, considering the Lightning did outshoot Vancouver 17-5 in that Third Period, it's the kind of puck luck you get when you're waylaying a team in possession. So, I won't poo poo that goal. Unfortunately, Bo Horvat had pretty perfect placement on a shot/pass off the rush late in the game to equalize, and this one ended up in Overtime.

The Lightning have been good in Overtime this year and with Vasilevskiy in net, I even like their chances in the Shootout, so I was optimistic heading out of regulation. Ironically, though, I think tonight was the Lightning's lousiest 3-on-3 session in a couple of months, and they were really lucky to get out of it with the second point. Vancouver missed the net on several glorious opportunities with a frequency that would make Victor Hedman blush, and that gave the Lightning the chance to end it on a Kucherov breakaway sprung by a good stretch pass by Vladislav Namestnikov.

You're going to see a lot of deceptively positive stuff about the Lightning climbing back into the second Wild Card spot with the win tonight. I really hope the team doesn't actually think they've made it all the way back, though, because they're still in a Grand Canyon sized hole and they still have no margin for error. Let's put it this way: to be on target at 60 points in our 12-in-10 model by the end of this 5th 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning would have to win 7 of their next 8. So please, let's pump the brakes on any celebrations because there's still a ton of work to be done and this team still is not playing anywhere close to their best hockey. You can be happy, though, that winning a couple in a row probably forestalls any thoughts of an early sell off by the Lightning. Mind you, I doubt Yzerman would act that rashly even with the pressure of the Stamkos and Drouin situations upon him.

Nikita Nesterov had 2 hits in 15:18.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-2-16 Wild at Lightning

Stayin' alive...

MIN-2
TB-3 (SO)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 32 shots before stopping 3 of 3 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Andrei didn't have a lot of work early and then really stepped in it on the puckhandling mistake that led to Minnesota's first goal. He looked shaky after that goal but got much, much stronger as the game progressed. And, in the Shootout, there's simply a different vibe with Vasiy in the crease. I'm going to make a bold suggestion to Jon Cooper: make Vasiy your designated SO goaltender from here on out regardless if Bishop is in net for OT. The fact of the matter is Bishop's five hole is a soul-destroying liability in the SO, whereas Vasiy's technique and newness is a big-time strategic advantage. I would use it, because with him in net you may only need to score 1 at the other end to get the second point.

First Period
11:40 TB Filppula (4), (Killorn, Stamkos)
15:39 MIN Coyle (10), (unassisted)

Second Period
1:03 TB Kucherov (14), (Palat, Stralman)

Third Period
17:21 MIN Spurgeon (6), (Coyle, Niederreiter)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
MIN- NONE
TB- Callahan

Vasilevskiy and Victor Hedman were the game's first and third stars.

The first 40 minutes of this game were the closest to real Tampa Bay Lightning hockey we've seen all year. Finally at full strength with Palat returning to the lineup and backs squarely against the wall, they dominated the first two frames in all aspects of the game and should've been up 2-0 except for the Vasilevskiy puckhandling gaffe. It's frustrating to me the Lightning had to be this close to standings death to finally display this level of urgency, but at least it finally came out of them tonight. Very key: they HAVE to play with that same level of urgency in Calgary to start their road trip or nothing they did tonight will matter an iota anyway.

The Third Period was a case of a team simply not handling the pressure of a one goal lead well. Paquette started it off by taking a bad tripping call and they were back on their heels almost the entire period thereafter. Vasilevskiy made some dazzling saves and got aided by a video review challenge that went Cooper's way, but in the end they just sagged way too much to possibly preserve that lead and they were lucky not to lose the game in regulation.

3-on-3 OT continues to be a strength for the Lightning, in my opinion. After the jail break of their first couple of 3-on-3's of the season, they've figured out the tactical game of managing possession and wearing down an opponent to free up chances. Hedman could've easily won it with a dazzling move that was only denied by a (lucky) stop by Dubnyk with the paddle of the stick. They had the momentum coming out of OT, and with Vasiy in net, Callahan got the forehand deke stash the team needed to get that crucial second point.

This isn't a slight on Steven Stamkos, but did we learn tonight that Ondrej Palat is the real heart and soul leader of the Tampa Bay Lightning?

So here's where we're at with 1 game left to go in Segment Four of the season nearing the halfway point of the campaign: 11 points in the last 9 games. The next contest against Calgary will be the margin. Win and they have their best segment of the year and cut their overall season deficit to 4 points. Lose and they have their second failed segment and the deficit goes up to 6 points. You don't want to have to play .675 hockey the rest of the way to make the playoffs comfortably. To put it in perspective, .675 hockey is what Dallas has played to stake their club to the best record in the Western Conference in their first 40 games. That's just a bridge too far to expect a team to turn on a light switch and do that the second half of the year. .650 hockey is still a hellacious clip, mind you, but you're not putting yourself in a position where you have to have one of the top two records in your conference just to make it in without sweating bullets. And, quite frankly, at a certain point the team just needs to make the psychological break through where they're doing more than just treading water and they're starting to make a charge in the standings.

Jonathan Marchessault had 3 hits in 9:33. With Drouin heading down to Syracuse, Marchessault's spot on the team seems secure from here on out. He's a good 19 games from graduation from prospect status on the site, but from the looks of it he'll be racing Nesterov the rest of the way to become the next Bolt Prospects Alumni.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 12-31-15 Crunch at Penguins

Vasiy stands on his head.

SYR-4
WBS-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 30 shots for the victory including a sparkling "double save" in the Third Period to preserve the win that was the stuff of legend.

First Period
WBS Dea, (9) (Clendening, O'Neill), 7:03 (PP)
SYR Erne, (3) (Blunden, Richard), 15:56 (PP)
SYR Blunden, (6) (Richard), 18:22

Second Period
WBS Gill, (1) (Simon, Kuhnhackl), 8:16 (PP)
SYR Erne, (4) (Darcy, Broll), 9:35

Third Period
SYR Koekkoek, (2) (McGinn, Witkowski), 18:49 (EN)

Adam Erne and Mike Blunden were the game's first and third stars.

That's 3 goals and 5 points in the last 5 games for Erne, and after going the first 22 games of his season without a goal, Slater Koekkoek has gotten on the board in 2 of the last 3. The high draft picks continue to come through for Syracuse.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 12-29-15 Crunch at Bears

Brolldozer with the GWG.

SYR-3
HER-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory. He raised his save percentage to .932 with the win while also beating Dan Ellis, which is chicken soup for the soul for Lightning fans.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
SYR McGinn, (10) (Tambellini, Koekkoek), 9:15
HER Camper, (5) (Carey, Boyd), 17:47 (PP)
SYR Broll, (1) (Darcy), 19:48

Third Period
SYR McGinn, (11) (Walcott, Mormina), 4:58

Tye McGinn, Vasilevskiy, and David Broll were the game's three stars.

Syracuse actually was outshot 30-17 in the game. They got just 1 shot on goal, combined, from callup returnees Angelidis, Blunden, and Gourde.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Day: 12-27-15 Crunch at Comets

Syracuse falls short and falls back to .500.

SYR-2
UTI-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 31 shots for the loss.

First Period
SYR Blujus, (3) (DeAngelo, Darcy), 3:09 (PP)
UTI Shields, (1) (Grenier, Shinkaruk), 17:56

Second Period
UTI Kurtz, (1) (Negrin, Zalewski), 3:55
SYR Koekkoek, (1) (Taormina, Richard), 13:27 (PP)
UTI Landry, (1) (Subban, Gaunce), 17:45

Third Period
UTI Syvret, (2) (Shields, Friesen), 2:53

Well, at least Slater Koekkoek potted his first goal of the season. He's been the one top pick for Tampa that hasn't been hitting the scoresheet regularly despite some thoroughbred offensive instincts.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 12-26-15 Falcons at Crunch

First AHL goal for The Hit Man.

SPR-1
SYR-3

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 30 saves for the victory. In 7 AHL games he's sitting on a stylish .937 save percentage.

First Period
SPR Selleck, (4) (Mauermann, DiSalvatore), 17:33

Second Period
SYR Hart, (1) (DeAngelo, Walcott), 14:05
SYR McGinn, (9) (DeAngelo), 18:01

Third Period
SYR Richard, (1) (Erne), 4:00

Vasilevskiy, Brian Hart, and Anthony DeAngelo were the game's three stars. Hart had his first AHL goal in the contest, while the Lightning's top draft picks like Vasilevskiy, DeAngelo, and Erne continue to produce like top draft picks should.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 12-19-15 Penguins at Crunch

Blanked.

WBS-3
SYR-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 23 shots for the loss.

First Period
WBS Kostopoulos, (7) (Sundqvist, Andersen), 6:20

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
WBS O'Neill, (4) (Mouillierat, Rust), 3:33
WBS Kuhnhackl, (6) (Simon), 5:19

Matthew Peca was the game's third star.

Syracuse actually outshot Wilke-Barre/Scranton 30-23 in the contest, but couldn't find the scoresheet.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 12-18-15 Senators at Crunch

Vasiy says, "LET THERE BE KITTENS!"

BNG-0
SYR-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 27 shots he faced for the shutout victory.

First Period
SYR Darcy, (2) (DeAngelo, Peca), 14:44 (PP)

Second Period
SYR Walcott, (1) (Blujus, Broll), 7:46

Third Period
SYR Blujus, (2) (Koekkoek, Peca), 2:38 (PP)
SYR McGinn, (6) (DeAngelo, Blujus), 18:11

Vasilevskiy, Cameron Darcy, and Dylan Blujus were the game's three stars. Darcy's suddenly finding the scoresheet and giving the Crunch some much needed offensive punch.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-15-15 Lightning at Maple Leafs

Character building victory for the weary Lightning.

TB-5
TOR-4 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 37 shots for the OT victory. None of his goals were brutally soft tonight, mind you, but you had goals resulting from rebound control in tight, sliding too far out of position to challenge a first shot, and another going through him under his arm. Point being: he can play better. And, for everyone who was ready to usher Ben Bishop out of town to anoint Vasilevskiy just a couple months ago: slow down.

First Period
2:59 TB Kucherov (12), (Namestnikov)
10:40 TOR Bozak (5), (van Riemsdyk, Parenteau)(PP)
18:03 TOR van Riemsdyk (9), (Bozak, Parenteau)

Second Period
11:34 TOR Rielly (4), (Komarov)
19:24 TB Stralman (3), (Kucherov)

Third Period
5:56 TB Blunden (1), (Gourde, Sustr)
6:32 TB Marchessault (4), (Killorn, Sustr)
13:28 TOR Winnik (3), (Polak, Spaling)

Overtime
2:01 TB Namestnikov (6), (unassisted)

Vladislav Namestnikov was the game's first star. Well deserved because he was excellent from start to finish. He's now got double the goals of Valtteri Filppula and has edged ahead of Filppula in points despite playing fewer minutes. Oh, and one is +7 this year and the other is -9, too. I feel like Vladislav's clearly on the cusp of stardom and Filppula is borderline stealing money, which points to some difficult moves that Yzerman really needs to make happen.

Overall the game was 39 minutes of some of the worst hockey the Lightning have played all season followed by the kind of character-building moments that could allow the Lightning to come out a much better team by the end of the year if they can keep manufacturing points. The Lightning looked dead tired and flat as a pancake for most of the first two periods after playing on the tail end of a back-to-back and their 3rd game in 4 nights while also dealing with the clown show that is the Toronto media whenever Stamkos is in town. They looked dead late in the Second Period when the Toronto defense decided to revert to the norm and the Red Sea parted for Anton Stralman to cut the lead to 3-2. Game changing moment.

From that point on, the Lightning took control of the tenor of the game with two key strikes brought by fresh legs from the Syracuse Crunch. Toronto managed to get a seeing eye goal off a faceoff to salvage a point, but it's an absolutely amazing thing to see the Lightning athletically dominating a Toronto team late even after Toronto had a week off heading into this one. Namestnikov punctuated it by scorching past the Toronto 3-man unit to create his own breakaway and the game winning goal.

Bear in mind this is a Lightning team that has absolutely stunk at coming from behind in Third Periods the past couple of years. I haven't looked it up, but it feels like the Lightning have only won 3 or 4 games (including tonight) coming from behind in the Third Period the last 2 seasons, and they hadn't done it yet this year. They're learning how to win games when the goals don't come to them. They're learning how to win games when they're hurt. They're learning how to win games when they're tired. They're learning how to win games from behind. Sure, a lot of that education also came in the playoffs last year, but I want you to imagine what this graduate course in weathering adversity could lead to once Johnson, Palat, Drouin, Paquette, and all of Santa's other reindeer come off the IR. If I were the NHL, I'd be terrified if the Lightning can weather this storm and make the playoffs.

Jonathan Marchessault had a goal, 3 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 17:13. He was really good tonight. Caught some bad luck with his stick breaking leading to the 2-on-1 that led to the Rielly goal, but he stuck to it and got the goal to go ahead 4-3 in the Third Period. Note, he now also has more goals than the previously mentioned Filppula.

Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 6:55. It's Gourde's birthday and his NHL debut, and it improved greatly once he got that interference call out of the way in his first or second shift in the league.

Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:45. He's still not where he was a year ago, and that's a little concerning.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 12-12-15 Marlies at Crunch

Crunch show character in OT loss.

TOR-4
SYR-3

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 38 shots for the OT loss.

First Period
SYR McGinn, (5) (Angelidis, Gourde), 4:51
TOR Brennan, (9) (Nylander, Panik), 15:00 (PP)
TOR Frattin, (5) (Carrick, Leipsic), 16:06
TOR Campbell, (7) (Leipsic, Arcobello), 17:16

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
SYR Taormina, (6) (Gourde, Richard), 3:02 (PP)
SYR Darcy, (1) (Erne, Vermin), 17:39

Overtime
TOR Valiev, (2) (Kapanen), 2:21

Cameron Darcy and Yanni Gourde were the game's second and third stars.

Kind of like the Lightning up top, tonight the Crunch sought redemption against a stacked Marlies team that embarrassed them the last time the two teams met. And, like the Lightning, the Crunch proved they can compete against a top flight team. The fact they pulled out a point was the differing story line, and one that Tampa Bay can envy.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

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