How the Rangers Exposed a Possible Weakness in Andrei Vasilevskiy’s Game

Have the New York Rangers found a way to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy?

Ask a room full of players, scouts, media and fans to name the best goaltender, and the majority may very well answer with Tampa Bay’s starting goaltender. The 27-year-old Russian is a four-time All-Star, the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner and the 2021 Conn Smythe winner.

He had just dominated in a sweep against the Florida Panthers, who led the league in goals. Then the Rangers picked him apart in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final with a commanding 6-2 win Wednesday.

New York’s goaltender, Igor Shesterkin, certainly played a major role in the lopsided score, while the Lightning skaters made mistakes and looked overwhelmed for certain shifts.

But Vasilevskiy looked shockingly average, and that may even be generous. Clear Sight Analytics reported that the Rangers’ shots resulted in 2.97 expected goals, or three fewer than Vasilevskiy allowed.

Every player has bad nights. Henrik Lundqvist gave up six goals on five different occasions during his playoff career. It happens. Vasilevskiy is a top goaltender with playoff experience beyond his years. He won’t be rattled and will almost certainly perform better for the remainder of the series.

What stood out, though, was not merely that the Rangers beat him six times, but how they did it. Four of the six goals were elevated shots toward Vasilevskiy’s blocker side. A couple of them were the result of the natural game flow. Goals by Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin came from the lateral right-to-left passes. That meant the blocker side of the net was gaping as Vasilevskiy needed to move across the crease. Filip Chytil scored twice while shooting toward Vasilevskiy’s glove side on similar plays.

Goals by Mika Zibanejad and Frank Vatrano told different stories.

Author: Lucy Green