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The case for... Andrei Vasilevskiy

Bryan Burns makes the case for Andrei Vasilevskiy to become the first Bolts goaltender to win the Vezina Trophy

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Four Tampa Bay Lightning players and coaches are up for honors at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 19, tied with St. Louis for most in the League.

Victor Hedman tries to repeat as Norris Trophy winner after becoming the first Bolt to claim the award last season.

Nikita Kucherov makes a strong case for the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award, given annually to the League's regular season MVP as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and the NHL Players Association, respectively.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is in Las Vegas for a second-straight season with hopes to bring home the Vezina Trophy after finishing third in voting a year ago.

And Jon Cooper will be hard to pass up for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach considering he led the Lightning to 62 regular season wins, tied with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most all-time in League history.

In the coming days, we'll make the case why each is worthy of his respective award.

Up next…Andrei Vasilevskiy

No Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender has ever won the Vezina Trophy.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is aiming to become the first.

Ben Bishop, one of the finalists for the Vezina this season along with the New York Islanders' Robin Lehner, came the closest to lifting the hardware while with the Lightning as the runner-up to Washington's Braden Holtby in 2016.

Vasilevskiy is a finalist for the second-straight season and placed third last season, finishing behind first-time winner Pekka Rinne of Nashville and second place Connor Hellebuyck of Winnipeg.

But this year might be the one to end Tampa Bay's Vezina drought.

Win, win, win, win (sung like Jay Rock)
The true mark of an elite goaltender is his ability to backstop his team to victory.

In 2018-19, no goalie did that better or more frequently than Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Vasilevskiy concluded the regular season with a NHL-best 39 wins - it was the second-consecutive season Vasy paced the NHL for wins after tying Hellebuyck with 44 last season - finishing with two more than second place Sergei Bobrovsky.

Bishop only had 27 wins compared to 15 regulation losses. Lehner had even fewer, posting 25 wins against 13 regulation losses.

Also, don't forget, Vasilevskiy missed a month of the season after fracturing his foot at a practice in Pittsburgh in mid-November. Had he been healthy all season, there's a good chance he would have shattered his own personal best and franchise mark for victories in a season (44) set the previous year. And his win total would have far outpaced the rest of the League rather than just barely nudging ahead.

Tampa Bay recorded 62 victories in 2018-19, tied with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most all-time in NHL history.

Vasilevskiy and his 39 wins were a big reason why.

Incredible saves
How are you going to deny the Vezina to a goalie making these highlight-reel saves?

The face save

Video: STL@TBL: Vasilevskiy robs Schenn from his belly

The dive across

Video: VGK@TBL: Vasilevskiy makes flurry of tremendous saves

The scorpion kick (keep in mind, this save came in Vasilevskiy's first game back from injury, when he made 48-of-49 stops, many spectacularly, to backstop the Bolts to a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs.)

Video: TOR@TBL: Vasilevskiy makes jaw-dropping skate save

Record setter
The Tampa Bay Lightning record book will have to undergo a few rewrites this offseason after Andrei Vasilevskiy established a handful of new franchise marks.

The Russian netminder tied the team record for saves in a game in that 48-save effort coming off an injury against Toronto in December. He then shattered the mark in March after making an incredible 54 stops on 58 shots in Tampa Bay's 5-4 overtime victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in D.C. Vasilevskiy became the 11th different goalie since 1955-56 to record multiple victories of at least 48 saves in a single season.

Vasilevskiy surpassed Bishop for most shutouts in Tampa Bay history with his 20-save performance against Montreal on February 16, the 18th shutout of his career.

That shutout was part of a longer stretch where Vasilevskiy blanked opponents over nearly three complete games. Starting in the third period of a 6-3 win over Calgary, Vasilevskiy posted back-to-back shutouts and nearly had three in a row before giving up a goal with 1:45 remaining in Tampa Bay's 5-1 victory at Columbus February 18. The shutout streak, which lasted 184:04, was the longest in Lightning history.

Vasilevskiy leapfrogged Bishop for another franchise mark in 2018-19 too, pulling to the top of the list for most career saves. Vasy now owns 5,819 saves. Bishop stopped 5,728 shots while with the Lightning.

Conclusion
While Vasilevskiy's competition can point to better stats in their claim to the Vezina - Bishop owned a 1.98 goals-against average and NHL-best .934 save percentage; Lehner put up a 2.13 GAA and .930 save percentage; Vasilevskiy's GAA and save percentage were 2.40 and .925, respectively -- no other League goalie could match the Russian's ability to make the spectacular save while piling up wins at an incredible rate. If any season should produce Tampa Bay's first Vezina winner, the 2018-19 campaign with its historic, record-tying 62 wins should be the one.

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