The Tampa Bay Lightning are in a deep rut as the NHL season has progressed to the 25 percent mark. Considered a legitimate threat to fight for the Stanley Cup at the start of the year, the Lightning have a losing record after 25 games (10-10-5). The most troubling aspect of their season has been their defense, and former Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy has been part of the problem.
Vasilevskiy was abused for 6 goals on 25 shots in Tampa Bay's 8-1 loss Saturday to the Dallas Stars. Vasilevskiy has fallen to 1-3-0 in his four starts since returning from back surgery, but head coach Jon Cooper says he still believes that the former Conn Smythe trophy winner could still get the job done for the Lightning.
“This is his fourth game in almost a year so he's getting his legs back but he’s still the best in the world and that's the guy we want in our net”
When the Lightning have been at their best, they played with a reckless abandon on offense because they knew that Vasilevskiy was capable of shutting any opponent down on his own. That formula usually resulted in more than enough offense for Tampa Bay, while opponents were hard pressed to score consistently against Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The goaltender has given up 14 goals in 4 games this season, and he does not appear to be anything close to his best form. Returning from back surgery is often difficult for goaltenders who are forced to make quick side-to-side movements in order to perform effectively.