TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As we close in on the Bolts’ regular-season opener on Tuesday, a lot of focus will, of course, be on the goaltender position while Andrei Vasilevskiy recovers from his back procedure.
After Saturday’s latest roster cuts, they’ve got Matt Tomkins and Jonas Johansson as their goalies until Vasy returns.
“How we are going to be moving forward. We’ve still got a couple more games left. Each guy’s going to get one, so it’ll be a little bit more for us to kind of evaluate, but so far, there’s been no letting up,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “Guys are battling for jobs here, whether it’s forwards, “D” and especially, the goaltenders, but what we’ve seen so far—especially getting the news about Vasy a little over a week ago – these guys have really stepped up their game so it’s been great.”
Tomkins and Johansson have been alternating starts since the second preseason game, with Johansson posting shut-outs in both of his games.
“Any time you can kick them all out the way JJ has, it’s good for the confidence for himself and our team,” Cooper said. “So let’s just make sure we can continue with the details in our team defense and help our goaltender out.”
“It’s been a good start,” Johansson said. “I think the team, every day, every game so far, we come out really hard and started the right way – good stuff to keep building on.”
“It’s just that confidence feeling to know that a guy’s gonna be able to bail you out when things go wrong,” said Lightning forward Tanner Jeannot. “But for me, I just try to focus on my game and try to help him out as much as he’s trying to help me out. That’s why hockey’s a team game, and everyone just works together.”
Before signing with the Lightning this summer, Johansson played for three other teams in his previous four seasons in the NHL, starting 27 games. With more starts on the horizon, he’s continuing to fine-tune his craft.
“So far, since we got here, we did a lot of work with Frantz [Jean], the goalie coach, about—it’s nothing new really— it’s just like sharpening up your details in a game and be really sharp every practice, every shot,” Johansson said. “I think that’s a big part if you want to have success in games too.”
“He’s looked really good,” Lightning forward Steven Stamkos said about Johansson. “Obviously, it’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment for him having to be ‘the guy’ until Vasy’s back, but from the games that he’s played so far, he looks really good, and I think guys have a lot of confidence in that.”
The team estimates Vasilevskiy will be out about two months, which would be about 30 games or more than a third of the season, that they’ll be depending on Johansson and Tomkins in net.