TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was surrounded by a massive media group when he was asked who is goaltending idol was.
“I liked how 'Bish' played,” the young Russian, referring to normal starter Ben Bishop, said to laughs.
The question is, will Vasilevskiy be starting for his goaltending hero for a second consecutive game?
Bishop did not practice with the Lightning on Friday, one day before they’ll host the Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. Vasilevskiy played well in the Lightning’s 2-1 loss in Game 4 and admitted that even he didn’t know if he’s playing on Saturday night. He’ll be prepared for anything including, if he plays, seeing more than the two first-period shots the Blackhawks threw at him on Wednesday.
“[The] guys did a very good job and think about our net,” Vasilevskiy said. “That's why we (allowed) just 19 shots.”
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It’s still unclear what’s ailing Bishop but the goaltender taking Friday off was planned, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.
“Bish, don't be alarmed that he's not out there,” Cooper said. “I'm not going to sit here and commit as to whether he's going to play Saturday. He's feeling better with each day. When we made the decision not to play him the other night, the decision just wasn’t made, ‘Oh, we're not going to play him.’ It's, ‘we're not playing you and you're taking the next three days off.’ This was all in the plan. We'll have a better indication tomorrow at the morning skate.”
Vasilevskiy, who’s still learning English, has asked there be no cameras be present when he conducts interviews – “Yeah, I still speak not really good for cameras. But for writers, yeah; for you, you can change words.” His comfort level in net was fine on Wednesday. It probably helped that he came in during a very tense time, the third period of Game 2, when Bishop first had issues with his undisclosed injury.
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So if Vasilevskiy does play on Saturday, he’s ready.
“I think I'll have more confidence,” he said. “I got some experience right now in Stanley Cup Final. That's it. In my head right now, mentally, I got more power right now. When you play, you get good feeling, more fun. I think next game, if I will play, I will feel much better.”
The Blackhawks had their goaltending questions in the first round, although those didn’t revolve around one being injured. The Lightning still don’t know who their guy is on Saturday. It’ll either be Bishop, or the backup who looks up to Bishop.
“I don't know sitting here today if Ben Bishop is playing on Saturday. I hope he plays. I don't know if he's going to,” Cooper said. “He's got to get back on the ice. If he's not in the pregame skate tomorrow, that's a pretty good indication of whether he's going to play or not.”