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Vasilevskiy not used to spotlight yet
13 июня 2015 года. Feschuk, Dave. Toronto Star

As the media horde descended on the dressing-room stall of Andrei Vasilevskiy on Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender put forth a rare request.

"No cameras," he said.

No cameras? Certainly there are athletes with better arguments for the elimination of multiple lenses in their faces. But this wasn't LeBron James getting cut for stitches by the courtside TV equipment in the NBA final. This wasn't a rabbit-eared Tiger Woods complaining about the distracting sound of the click-click-clicking in the midst of his discombobulated golf swing.

This was a 20-year-old Russian rookie with a humble request - that his impromptu use of the English language not be documented in high definition. Even if he's actually quite fluent, and wholly understandable, he's not yet confident in his delivery.

"I still speak not really good for cameras," Vasilevskiy explained.

Exactly what his media-scrum skittishness says about his potential for on-ice steeliness in Saturday's Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final is anyone's guess. Vasilevskiy's call for a broadcast blackout only added to the air of mystery that's been surrounding the Lightning's goaltending situation since Vasilevskiy came on in relief of an injured Ben Bishop in the dying moments of a Game 2 win. Since then, it's been nothing but curveballs in the Tampa Bay crease. The widespread assumption was that Bishop wouldn't be able to make it through Game 3, and somehow he did. And yet still Vasilevskiy got the surprise start in Game 4, a 2-1 loss. It set up a dice roll of a Game 5, this with the Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks deadlocked in a 2-2 tie.

"I do not know sitting here today if Ben Bishop is going to play on Saturday," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said on Friday. "I hope he plays. I don't know if he's going to."

This is the most closely contested Stanley Cup final in a long time, the first one since 1968 in which four straight games have been decided by a single goal. And yet, there is separation in another way. The Blackhawks are the proven commodity here. With a win in Game 4 they increased their win-loss record in post-season Games 4 through 7 to an astonishing 41-14 in the Toews-Kane era - a .745 winning percentage that helps explain championships in 2010 and 2013.

In other words, they've laid down a track record of raising their game, and often the Stanley Cup, when it counts.

"They've got experience and they've got success," said Braydon Coburn, the Lightning defencman.

As Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford was saying this week: "We've gone through these situations before, this team. I think maybe the experience helps a little bit with pressure. I think we were able to deal with it a little bit better than maybe if it's your first year, first time going through something like this."

And as for the Lightning? This is a new kind of situation for one of the NHL's youngest couple of playoff teams. And how they're holding up under the pressure remains to be seen. Certainly they're possessed of their share of uncomfortable question marks heading into a match that's historically pivotal. The team that takes a 3-2 lead in the Stanley Cup final has won 78 per cent of the time, according to WhoWins.com.

So how is Bishop's health? The Lightning No. 1 didn't practise with his teammates on Friday, and Cooper said he'll likely need to be ready to partake in Saturday's morning skate if he's going to be considered for action on Saturday night.

How is Tyler Johnson's health? Though the NHL's playoff leader in points and goals insists he's "fine," there has been well-founded speculation he's nursing an injury that has led Cooper to all but relieve him of his duties in the faceoff circle, where he was a regular all season.

And is the alleged home-ice advantage even an advantage to the Lightning? Although they have the opportunity to play host to Game 5 and Game 7 (if necessary) at Amalie Arena, they're an underwhelming 6-6 in their building this post-season. The Hawks are 6-5 on the road.

Vasilevskiy, for his part, doesn't appear to care where he plays, so long as he does. He spent a long season grappling with the dull reality of being a scarcely used backup. So to be in the running to get in a third straight game, he appeared overjoyed.

"The last two days I have more fun than all season. That's awesome. I'm very excited," Vasilevskiy said. "When you play, you get good feeling - more fun."

And with that, Vasilevskiy smiled broadly on Friday, albeit not for the consumption of the viewers of umpteen broadcast outlets whose representatives were shooed from his presence.

The Lightning can only hope the young Russian finds quicker comfort in the spotlight when next he finds himself in its glare. 

Страничка Андрея Василевского на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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