The Tampa Bay Lightning announced goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury suffered during practice on Wednesday.
TSN’s Darren Dreger first reported the news on Thursday morning, tweeting that it could be a fracture on Vasilevskiy’s foot. The Russian netminder was sent back to Tampa to be re-evaluated, and will not play against the Penguins.
This is significant news for a team that has relied so heavily on their former Vezina finalist to accrue points this season. Vasy is 9-3-1 this year in 13 starts, with a 2.29 GAA and .927 save percentage, top ten in all three goaltending categories.
Should this be a long-term injury, Tampa Bay might be in trouble. They've all ready dealt with two major injuries this year; defenseman Victor Hedman missed seven games with an upper body injury, and forward Ondrej Palat has not played since October 26th against Vegas. Even defenseman Anton Stralman has missed the last two games, albeit both after Hedman made his return to the lineup.
The Bolts were able to deal with those stretches thanks to their excellent depth at both positions. Ryan McDonagh was outstanding in shouldering the heavy minutes in Hedman’s absence, averaging 23:42 a night and contributing one goal and seven assists. Tyler Johnson and JT Miller have both been excellent playing in the top six, combining for 10 points in the eight games Palat has missed.
But at the goaltending position, the Lightning will have a harder time replacing Vasilevskiy’s play. Backup Louis Dominque figures to get the majority of the starts, and with a few back-to-backs on the incoming schedule, emergency call-up Eddie Pasquale should see the ice a few times.
And while at times Dominque has looked excellent this season, every now and then he gives up a goal that leaves heads in hands. At .887, his save percentage leaves a lot to be desired, albeit in a small sample size of just five starts.
If you throw out the Arizona game in which he gave up seven goals Dominque's numbers start to look respectable, coming out to a .910 save percentage and a goals against average slightly above 2.5. But those are really good backup numbers, not really good starter numbers.
Vasilevskiy has been key at times this year, making 30+ saves five times, all in winning efforts. On opening night he was excellent, making 42 saves and keeping the Lightning in the game when they started slow. In Vegas, he made 12 saves during the third period to preserve the win after Hedman was lost mid-game to injury.
Dominque does not have to be as good as Vasilevskiy because this team has enough talent to temporarily paper over the hole. But if Vasilevskiy is out long term, he’s going to have to play better than he’s shown this year, or else the Bolts could be in trouble.