The Tampa Bay Lightning enjoy an embarrassment of riches when it comes to organizational depth. Nowhere is this more evident than between the pipes. They have two capable and incredibly talented goaltenders who give the team in front of them the best chance to win on a nightly basis. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been seen as the heir apparent to Tampa’s number one spot for quite some time. He’s had a stellar start while Ben Bishop has gotten off to and struggled through the first quarter of the season. That’s gotten people talking: Is Vasilevskiy ready to take over as Tampa’s starting netminder? Editor in Chief W.B. Philp and Managing Editor Alexis Boucher face off on both sides of this debate.
Here are the numbers:
Is it time for Jon Cooper to elevate Andrei Vasilevskiy to the number one goalie spot?
The short answer to the question “Is Vasilevskiy ready to be number one?” is no. The long answer is: It’s complicated. The kid is insanely talented and is sure to be one of the top players at his position for years to come. He’s had a dazzling start this season having won four straight starts and six of his eight starts. This includes two shutouts and league leading stats for GAA (1.50) and save percentage( .951%). Vasilevskiy is clearly benefiting from the expanded workload. He’s more comfortable and that shows in his play. It’s easy to want him to take the number one job especially when comparing his performance to that of a struggling Ben Bishop.
Yes, Vasilevskiy is playing brilliantly but so far there’s a very small sample size. He’s played 48 career NHL games compared to Bishop’s 246. There’s still a lot to be learned when it comes to the tendencies of shooters, timing, knowing when to play the puck, and how to react in different situations. Those are all things that can be learned with playing time before he takes the top spot.
Bishop is better than his stats have shown so far. He’s currently carrying career lows in GAA (3.04) and save percentage (902%). It’s early and his teammates haven’t always shown up in front of him when they needed to. The last three years have been rather tumultuous for the Lightning whether it’s key injuries or shocking trades. Bishop has been their rock and frequently carried the team when logic suggested that they were done. He’ll rebound and reclaim his spot for however much longer he’s in Tampa. Vasilevskiy will be the top guy but right now the Bolts are better off sticking with the seasoned hand that’s gotten them so far.
W.B. Philp – Yes!
This is an easy one. Simply look at the numbers. Vasilevskiy has a 1.50 goals against average and a .951 save percentage while Ben Bishop has a pedestrian 3.04 goals against average and a .902 save percentage. Vasilevskiy also has two shutouts to Bishop’s none. Vasy has a 6-1 record while Big Ben owns a 7-8 record.
Vasilevskiy is eight years younger and will benefit the Lightning organization for much longer than Bishop.
His teammates are excited to play in front of him and believe in him.
The Russian backstop has had two+ solid seasons filling in as the backup for Ben Bishop, but he really showed his value during a 12-game stint with Syracuse last season. With another off-season of development and his performance this season, he is ready to carry the mantle in the NHL if given the opportunity.
GM Steve Yzerman should look and see what assets he can garner from trading Bishop and make Vasilevskiy his number one goalie.
What are your thoughts Lightning puckheads?