There was no debate this month.

There was no way the Tampa Bay Lightning were going to continue to play the way they played in October. They were bound to regress a bit once every shot they took stopped going into the net. They’ve dropped four of their last six games as the high-flying offense has stagnated a bit. One part of the game that hasn’t dropped off as the month wore on was their goaltending. Andrei Vasilevskiy has continued to excel as the Lightning’s number one netminder and for his play, he has been named the Raw Charge Bolt of the Month for November.

During the last 30 days, the Russian cat-lover has appeared in 10 of the Lightning’s 12 games, won 6 of them and posted a sparkling .939 save percentage while stopping 308 of the 328 shots he faced. Only Toronto’s Fredrick Anderson recorded a higher save percentage for the month of November.

What’s somewhat remarkable is that despite posting better individual numbers in November, he actually has fewer wins than he did in October. Despiting allowing almost a half-a-goal more (2.46 in October and 1.99 in November) he walked away with 10 wins in the season’s opening month.

An argument could be made that he’s played better in three of his four losses then he did in several of the wins he’s had in October. In each one of the losses the Lightning were within a goal at the time he left the ice for an extra skater. So even in his worse game of the month, a 5-3 loss to the Islanders, he still made several key saves in the third period to allow the Lightning to close the gap to one goal late in the period.

In two of his losses he was named a star of the game. Despite losing to the Rangers in overtime he was the number one star of the game. Also in the 3-1 loss to the Capitals he was named the second star after stopping 35 of 37 shots in the game.

Vasilevskiy’s best game of the month may have come against the Bruins. The Lightning were hemmed in their own zone for almost the entire first period of the game and Boston was launching shots every time they had a sliver of space to shoot. The Bruins ended up getting two past him (one on a questionable call in front of the net) but in all reality they should have scored 4 or 5 with the way the team was playing (well, not playing) in front of him.

His ability to make key saves throughout a game allows the Lightning to open up their offense when they need to and take more chances. If Victor Hedman pinches in to try and keep the pressure up, he has confidence that Vasilevskiy will bail him out should things go horribly wrong.

Case in point – overtime against Chicago. Hedman turns over the puck and Patrick Kane, one of the shiftiest players in the game, is free and clear in on a breakaway.

Vasilevskiy stones him and the Lightning go down and win the game.

The Lightning are not the greatest possession team. They may want to be, but they are not. They have managed to climb up the Corsi rankings (currently 11th in the league at 51.38%), but for the most part they are a transition team that uses their speed and talent to score goals. They score quick and pretty goals. Which is great for the highlight reels, but does tend to make things a little stressful for their defense and goaltenders.

The least amount of shots Vasilevskiy has faced in a game this month: 28, against the anemic Dallas Stars offense. He’s faced over 30 in each of his last five games, including a whopping 107 in his last three starts. At some point the Lightning will tighten up their defense, until then, they will rely on their best player to keep them in games until the offense does what they do.


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com