(Tampa) At the age of 27, Andrei Vasilevskiy has almost secured a place in the Hall of Fame. But he can continue to build his legend during this final.
Posted at 12:55 p.m
The Lightning and the Avalanche return for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals this Sunday at the Amalie Arena. And the Avalanche must achieve something they haven’t achieved since April 16, 2019: beat Vasilevskiy in a game where the Lightning risks elimination.
Honestly, the Lightning haven’t found themselves on the edge of the abyss many times since the Columbus Blue Jackets swept it away. It’s actually happened four times and the Russian keeper is 4-0, but more importantly, a 1.33 GAA and a .956 save rate under the circumstances.
Vasilevskiy remains relatively mysterious. Although he speaks decent English, he gives very few interviews. He has not spoken to reporters since media day on June 14.
But internally, too, there seems to be a mystery. Earlier this week, Jon Cooper mentioned that members of the Lightning try not to disrupt Vasilevskiy’s “game day routine.” What about this routine?
“I wasn’t with him but I’m sure his routine started last night,” Cooper replied. But this whole league is all about routine. I’m sure even you [les journalistes], you have your routine. You do the same things, you go to the same coffee shop. Goalkeepers are like that, they have their habits. And if you write a bad article, exchange the coffee! But that’s how we work here. He has his routine and we let him do it. »
“In general, we try not to disturb the goalkeepers on matchdays,” confirms Zach Bogosian. It’s just very intense, even on days when we’re not playing. He does everything he can to improve and make sure he’s at the top of his game and that involves a lot of habits that he’s had to maintain for years and it’s working for him! It’s really good when one of your Impact players is so focused on their job. »
However, Vaslevskiy hasn’t been perfect in recent games, particularly in the Avalanche’s opening goal on Friday when he allowed a return from a high shot he should have caught.
But the contrast to his rival Darcy Kuemper is still striking. Also on Saturday Jared Bednar had to answer questions about his confidence in his goalkeeper, who seems to be allowing at least one “bad” goal per game since his shutout in the second game.
Kuemper shoots .898 this spring. Since the 2005 lockout, Marc-André Fleury’s 908 in 2009 with the Penguins is the worst save percentage by a No. 1 goaltender to win the Stanley Cup.
Still no point, a doubt for Nichushkin?
Also, the Lightning won’t get the expected reinforcements for this sixth game. Jon Cooper said he expects to field the same squad as last game, meaning Brayden Point will be out again. The striker will miss the fourth game in a row.
It also looks like the Avalanche isn’t getting fresh powers. Andre Burakovsky briefly hopped onto the ice for morning exercises before returning to the dressing room. He hasn’t played since Game 2 either.
A certain intrigue remains around Valeri Nichushkin. TSN colleague Chris Johnston reported that the forward hobbled into the arena on Sunday. “We hope he trains,” said Jared Bednar simply.
Nichushkin has been one of, if not the best, forwards in the Avalanche since the start of the finals. In five games he has four goals and two assists and has had 21 shots.
As in game 4
We talked about routine earlier… The two Avalanche players who spoke to the media on Sunday morning were Mikko Rantanen and Andrew Cogliano. However, it was they who were chosen to play Game 4, here in Tampa, which the Avalanche eventually won.
Even better, fellow The Athletic’s Peter Baugh noted that upon arriving in the room, Cogliano even swapped the cards with the two players’ names on them, putting them in the same position as last Wednesday…