The Tampa Bay Lightning are blessed between the pipes. Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop sustained a scary injury in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and that would be a devastating blow for most teams, but the Bolts were better equipped than most to absorb it. They had Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Vasilevskiy isn't Bishop yet – it would be an insult to Bishop's outstanding regular season and playoffs to lump them together as one – but, sheesh, Vasilevskiy is one hell of a fallback. He regularly topped our goalie prospect rankings in THN Future Watch before becoming a full-time NHLer. No goalie has gone higher in the draft than Vasilevskiy's 19th over the past five years.
So while this save in Game 2 on Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, on a feed from fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin, no less, is amazing stuff, it doesn't come out of nowhere when we consider Vasilevskiy's pedigree. Check it out:
There's sprawling saves in which the shooter simply misses the yawning cage and makes the save look better than it is, there are the versions in which the goaltender makes a truly amazing stretch to stop the puck, and this one falls somewhere in between. Crosby didn't place his backhander perfectly, but Vasilevskiy had to make a truly athletic play to get across his crease and make the stop.
The kid is legit. He's still just 21. Just as Matt Murray might do for the Pens, Vasilevskiy will force the Lightning into some tough decisions over the next couple off-seasons. General manager Steve Yzerman must figure out Bishop's next contract by 2017, plus there's the threat of an expansion draft, which likely will let teams protect just one goalie…