It was going to take some player for Tampa Bay Lighting fans to forget about veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov but rookie Andrei Vasilevskiy has gone some way to making himself an instant hit with those supporters after an impressive start to life in the NHL. The Lighting took the seemingly risky decision to waive Nabokov in order to promote Vasilevskiy in February, handing the youngster the task of providing back-up and competition for starter Ben Bishop at a time of the season when the franchise are preparing for a real charge for honours.
Tampa Bay, who are among the betting contenders to top the Eastern Conference this season, recalled Vasilevskiy from the AHL in December. They threw the Russian right into the action against the Philadelphia Flyers. Since his debut, the 20-year-old has established himself as one of the best young goalies in the league, producing some eye-catching performances and handing Jon Cooper a massive boost ahead of the playoffs. But not many Lighting fans are able to say they were always confident the Tampa Bay management had done the right thing when they allowed 'Nabby' to leave at the start of February.
With almost 700 NHL appearances to his name, Nabokov boasted an incredible amount of experience and his leadership and calming influence made him a crucial part of the team during his brief stay in Tampa Bay. But the decision to let the 39-year-old leave looks to have been a very smart piece of business for the Lighting, with Vasilevskiy taking his chance and proving he is more than capable of stepping onto the ice when called upon. In the 5-3 victory over the Dallas Stars, Vasilevskiy was responsible for 33 saves in a performance that showed that the Lighting are well stocked for goalies heading into a crucial part of the season.
For everything Nabokov brought to the Lighting during his time in Tampa Bay, the veteran's displays this season indicated that the goalie might not be the same player he was during his San Jose Sharks days, going 3-6-2 with a below-par 3.15 goals-against average in 11 appearances for the Lighting this season. With one eye on a gruelling few months, including plenty of time on the road, Tampa Bay made the call to go with the younger option and the management will be feeling pretty good about themselves. In his first five appearances for the Lighting, four of which came away from home, Vasilevskiy looked sensational on his way to a 4-1-0 record with a 2.01 goals-against average.
Being used as a back-up was always going to be tough for Nabokov to adapt to after such a long career as an immediate starter. For Vasilevskiy, however, having the chance to get a decent run on the ice, even in a back-up role, was always going to be a fantastic opportunity to show what he can do. While there is no doubt the early signs suggest the Russian rookie has all the tools to be a future starter for the Lighting, sporadic involvement between now and the end of the season as Bishop's back-up could be the best thing for Vasilevskiy's development.
At the moment all ice hockey fans are focused pretty intently on the NHL season, as the regular season has entered its final month or so, and the top eight sides get set to do battle for the Stanley Cup in the play-offs, but some fans are destined to get disappointed. After all, although any fan will still have some interest in how the play-offs go, it isn’t the same if your own team isn’t one of those competing for the title. Thus, while you are waiting for the next season, and hoping your under-performing team does better next time out, an ice hockey themed slots game like Break Away can be a good way of wiping away the gloom.
One of the major benefits that an ice hockey slots game like this has over betting on the winners of the NHL is that you have much better chance of winning money – particularly if you support one of the less dominant teams and can’t bring yourself to bet on anyone else. Aside from this though, it is a hugely exciting video slot where every effort has been made to capture some of the excitement of a match – with the top notch animated graphics and audio effects pulling you right into the bone-crunching thrills of an NHL match – to the extent that you might be glad at times that you’re just playing a slots game!
The reels capture pretty much all the familiar sights of the NHL, including players, skates, hockey sticks, referees and a fiery puck. If you get this on your reel it triggers the Smashing Wild feature of the game – which can lead to anything up to 25 free spins. This is great opportunity to maximise your payout and, even if you don’t manage to win the top cash jackpot of $500 by playing Break Away, you would have to be very unlucky not to come out ahead from an evening playing this game. Games like Break Away can be found at online casinos like MobileCasino.mobi, that also feature a wide variety of other sports related slots games.
The You Can Play project has lots of momentum going for it since releasing its first PSA a few weeks ago and having Stamkos participate in You Can Play is huge with him being one of the biggest NHL stars right now. I have come to accept the bet with Downie about the long hair, but the toque Steven?
Check out You Can Play for more info on the campaign and you can follow them on twitter here
Record: Lightning (32-31-7) Blues (45-19-8)
Previous games: November 12, 2011 - Blues win 3-0
Game time: 7:00pm EST on SUN (HD)
Tonight the St. Louis Blues can clinch a playoff spot and would be the first NHL team to do so. They are currently at the top of the league and a very different team from when we saw them back in November.
The Lightning are in the middle of a 7 game homestand and although I think we can admit that our own playoffs is unattainable, we could have fun an delay St. Louis clinching there's for another game.
If you are planning to go to the game and don't have tickets yet, Bloguin has partnered with TiqIQ. I recieved an email on what the ticket scene is looking like for tonight and Monday's game:
- Average ticket price for Saturday, 3/17 Lightning vs Blues: $52
- Offer $17 for a "1 star" ticket that usually retails for over $28 or Offer $75 for a "5 Star" premium ticket that usually retails for over $100 after all the shipping/handling fees, here: http://tiqiq.us/8_h
- Average ticket price for Monday, 3/19 Lightning vs Sabres: $37
- Offer $15 for a "2 star" ticket that usually retails for over $36 or Offer $60 for a "4 Star" ticket that usually retails for over $158 after all the shipping/handling fees, here: http://tiqiq.us/8_v
Official Lightning preview
Trevor Smith was recalled from Norfolk this morning no comments
Let's say the guy was driving down from the city that Stamkos grew up in, Markham (just outside Toronto), the drive would be 1,339 miles. Ask that guy after the game, I'm sure that guy would say that is was worth the 23 hours it took to drive down. It also may have been cheaper than buying a ticket in the lower bowl at the ACC so there's that.
I'm lazy, so here is my photo recap of the game...