During the offseason, tampabaylightning.com will talk to Lightning players to get their first-hand account of a moment from the 2017-18 season, an update on their summer or just what's on their mind currently.
Today, we chat with Andrei Vasilevskiy, who returned to Tampa a couple weeks ago to begin informal workouts at the Ice Sports Forum. Vasilevskiy set a number of Lightning records - most wins (44), most saves (1,908), most shutouts (8), and most consecutive victories (9) - and was a Vezina finalist during the 2017-18 campaign in leading Tampa Bay to the Eastern Conference Final. Here, the 24-year-old goalie recaps the summer in his homeland, what it was like in Russia for the World Cup and how, even after all these years, Guns N' Roses can still rock out with the best of them, as told to tampabaylightning.com beat writer Bryan Burns.
"I spent most of the offseason in Moscow with my family and then met my parents and brother in Ufa. I hung out with a couple of my friends too, but because everybody has started to prepare for the season in the KHL, it's tough to see everybody. I usually go back to Russia after the season for a couple of months, just trying to get away from hockey. Usually after one week of not playing, I want to get back on the ice. It's pretty boring to do nothing. But I realize that the rest is important too, so I'm trying to take one or two months totally off to heal my body and all my muscles. I felt a little fatigued after this last season, I guess the same as everybody. That's why I want to take that time to heal, to charge my body again.
Video: TBL@MTL: Vasilevskiy dazzles in net to seal SO win
This summer in Russia, of course we had the World Cup. I was going to go to a couple of games, but it was too busy for me. I don't really like it when it's that wild. I kind of stayed away from the games. Of course, I saw lot of fans on the street, cheering, singing. That was pretty cool. Lots of people came from around the world. People were singing on the subway, on the street, everywhere. It was a very friendly atmosphere and was actually really fun. And, of course, Russia did pretty well. I watched their games on TV. I'm not much of a soccer guy, but it was a big step forward for the team.
In Ufa, I went to a kind of press conference they had for me at my old team in the KHL. Me and my father, we answered questions from kids, about 50 of them. They were asking just about everything, from how it is to play in the NHL, my preparation for games, what it's like to live in the U.S., all that stuff. That was pretty cool. They still know me, you know. Sometimes I get recognized on the streets in Russia, more in Ufa of course, but in Moscow too. I've also seen a couple guys with Lightning hats in Russia too, which is always fun to see.
Probably the highlight of my summer was going to a Guns N' Roses concert in Moscow. A friend of mine in the U.S. knows one of the guys in the group and set up two tickets for me. I went with one of my friends. They're old but they've still got it. At one point, Slash was playing his guitar behind his back. That was pretty cool to see. I really like classic rock. I would say Guns N' Roses are one of my favorites, and they're still playing live concerts. I wish I could have gotten to see Led Zeppelin or The Doors, but, unfortunately, they're not around anymore.
I didn't really go anywhere else during the summer, just stayed in Russia. I didn't go on vacation. I always tell people, I'm living a vacation. If I want to go to vacation, I can go to Miami for a weekend. During the season here, I try to focus on my job and my family and all that stuff. In the summer, I'm going back to Moscow, so big city and I'm kind of hanging out there. That's enough for me. I don't want to go anywhere else.
I came back to Tampa at the end of July, right after my birthday [July 25]. I'll skate and train here with (Nikita Kucherov) to prepare for the season. Same as usual, nothing changes. The last couple summers, I spent time in Ottawa getting ready for the season. This summer I decided to stay here for preseason. Usually I'm doing that, end of July flying back to the U.S. and doing my preparation before training camp. I got back on the ice last week, but I already feel pretty good. I'm actually surprised. Usually it takes two weeks at least before I feel comfortable. But this year after one week, I feel much better already. It's probably because of the new facility we have in Brandon. We have lots of cool recovery stuff, like an underwater treadmill, and our therapists are here. That helps me a lot. It's really cool. Lots of new stuff to try out. It's the best facility I've trained in.
Last week, there was a take your kids to work day at AMALIE Arena, so I went over to the arena to surprise the kids in the training room for a couple of minutes. I just talked to them for a bit, told them how we train and all that stuff. I'm not a great speaker, so I kind of used basic words and told them to enjoy the locker room tour and to have fun. I just try to be nice. I think they enjoyed seeing me there. And it was fun to see their eyes get really big when I walked into the room. I still get a kick out of that stuff."