TAMPA, Fla. – Maybe essentially the most stunning a part of the Tampa Bay Lightning ending off the New York Rangers on Saturday and changing into the primary group in practically 40 years to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for a 3rd straight season is that Andrei Vasilevskiy gave up a objective.

That’s how good this celebrity goalie has been in series-clinching victories in the course of the Lightning’s unbelievable run the previous three years.

But regardless of that one power-play objective that turned a one-goal Lightning lead into a particularly short-lived tie because of Steven Stamkos’ response 21 seconds later, Vasilevskiy kneeled on one knee and had his left hand on the Prince of Wales Trophy as he posed for what’s turn out to be the frequent group image after a Lightning Eastern Conference crown.

“Look at the last couple of games, you know, we had to score two goals to win,” Stamkos stated after scoring his fortieth and forty first profession playoff objectives throughout Tampa Bay’s 2-1 win in Game 6 because the Lightning received the sequence 4-2. “That’s pretty amazing. It just shows his ability. I mean, we could talk ‘til we’re blue in the face about Vassy because he’s … he’s that good. But at the end of the day, he goes out and he doesn’t say a word. He goes out there and just plays unbelievable and gives us a chance to win every night.”

In Vasilevskiy’s previous eight series-clinching victories, he has given up a ridiculous two objectives on 221 pictures. If you’re scoring at dwelling, that’s a .991 save proportion. In these eight series-clinching wins, he has saved 17 objectives above anticipated.

He acquired off to a gradual begin within the sequence. It took him a couple of video games to scrape off the rust from an extended layoff after the Lightning swept the Florida Panthers (9 objectives allowed in Games 1 and a pair of), however within the final 4 video games, Vasilevskiy was simply good by permitting 5 objectives – one at even energy.

He wasn’t examined so much throughout his 20-save effort Saturday evening, however once they wanted him, he, as regular, was there with a well timed cease or two. In the third interval, he made a superb left pad save to rob Andrew Copp.

He gave up no objectives via two intervals for the fifteenth time in a playoff begin and fourth time this postseason. He is 15-0 when that occurs, together with seven shutouts and 6 contests by which he allowed just one objective.

There’s a cause the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner and 2021 Conn Smythe Trophy winner is taken into account “the best goalie in the world” by his friends, together with Rangers younger star goalie and certain Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin.

Now, the juggernaut that’s the Colorado Avalanche will face one thing they haven’t seen all playoffs – a celebrity goalie.

“He’s one of the best goalies in the league,” Avalanche ahead J.T. Compher stated earlier this season. “He’s real athletic, he’s big. You’ve got to make sure that when you get chances, you’re focused. He’s never out of the play. Whenever you think you might have an empty net or a rebound chance, make sure you’re putting it in a good spot.”

As Lightning coach Jon Cooper stated, “Goaltenders hide flaws on your team, and I’ll be the first to stand in line and raise my hand and say Vassy’s done that for us. When you break down, you need somebody there to make the save for you and keep you in the game. Look at Game 4 of the Florida Panthers series, we were outplayed in that game.”

Vasilevskiy, 27, made 49 saves that evening and can now face an Avalanche group that has scored a league-high 4.64 objectives per recreation within the playoffs after ending fourth in the course of the common season at 3.76 objectives per recreation. But in a league the place groups scored at historic proportions this season, the Lightning can nonetheless defend like few others. They’ve allowed solely 2.41 objectives per recreation this postseason after ending sixth in the course of the common season at 2.78.

Vasilevskiy stated he thought the Lightning performed their finest recreation of the playoffs Saturday evening and is aware of that should proceed towards the Avs.

“Colorado is a great team,” he stated. “Lots of talent, in front, in the back, too. … Big challenge ahead. It’s going to be the toughest series ahead of us.”

Stamkos stated after Game 5 that the Lightning wanted to “defend ‘til the end.” That is their MO in spite of everything. They nonetheless purchase into that in a league the place groups appear to need to rating 5, six, seven objectives a recreation. The Avs are certainly a type of groups with a laundry record of super forwards equivalent to Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog and defensemen equivalent to Cale Makar, Devon Toews and Samuel Girard.

“I mean, it’s really a point of emphasis with our team,” ahead Alex Killorn stated. “I think we have enough skill and talent to score offensively, but we focus on our defensive game.”

And if you defend just like the Avs after which get to depend on Vasilevskiy in web, it’s a reasonably good recipe for fulfillment and a possible third straight Stanley Cup.

“We’re gonna need him more than ever,” Stamkos stated. “But we have now all the arrogance on the earth. I imply, there’s a cause why he’s the perfect on the earth as a result of he performs unbelievable within the largest moments. And as an athlete, that’s all you may dream for is to play your finest hockey when the stakes are the very best and he does that.

“And in these elimination games, the stats speak for themselves. But tonight, I thought as a group, … the ‘defend to the end’ mentality was contagious, and there’s a reason we rattled off four in a row against a team of that caliber is because we defended. And Vassy is a huge part of that.”

(Photo of Andrei Vasilevskiy making a save in Game 6: Kim Klement / USA Today)

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