Justin Cuthbert and Julian McKenzie aim to rationalize Jon Cooper's decision to let the Avalanche hang seven goals on the Lightning's netminder in Game 2.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: The reason why Colorado was celebrating so much is that seven goals were scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy has the worst start of his career postseason or regular season, giving up 7 goals. He gave up 7 goals once before. So it matched his worst ever game. Do you think he should have been pulled? Did John Cooper make a mistake not lifting him from that game?
JULIAN MCKENZIE: This is such a difficult topic. I think, if it was getting to 6 or 7, I could understand why he would pull him because, at that point, you're not winning the game. But the people who are bringing up that discussion at the first or second-- at the first intermission of the game-- I felt like at that point, even if it was like 3 or 4-0, if you're going to pull Andrei Vasilevskiy, you might as well wave the white flag because Brian Elliott is not saving you.
No disrespect to Brian Elliott. Been in the NHL for a very long time. Knows a thing or two about being a goalie. You want to put him up against Colorado? Nah, don't do that. Do not do that. He has not played a minute in this postseason. Do not do that.
I think that Andre Vasilevskiy has gotten-- he's obviously gotten them to this point. He is the best hope they have in net. And pulling him, I think, would just invite a lot of unnecessary controversy. And obviously-- I'm sure Vasilevskiy would not appreciate that. I think John Cooper is totally within his rights to keep him in the net.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: No, I think it was the right decision, too. You're right about the white flag. You're right about conceding.
Is it sort of acceptable or palatable to concede when you're down 5, 6, and 7-0? Sure. I guess. You're not going to win that game.
But I think, if you're trying to save him for game 3, he just had two nights off. It is what it is at this point. If he's taxed, he's taxed. And he obviously had enough rest with those two games off to play the full game. That shouldn't be an excuse.
But I think, more than anything else, it's like, Vasilevskiy's played every second of these last two championship runs, and to this point in this run. And to take the ability, if the Lightning do come back, to say, this guy played every second of three consecutive Stanley Cups-- to take that away from him-- just to get Brian Elliott a chance to play in the Stanley Cup Final or to feign-- hey, we've got to show our team that we didn't play hard enough for our goaltender tonight. Like, that's all BS to me.
Vasilevskiy has earned the opportunity to dictate when he's in and when he's out. And I think he would have wanted to stay in. And I think leaving that open-- that possibility of playing every second in three consecutive Stanley Cups is worth anything you could possibly gain from taking him from that game. So I agree he should have stayed in.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: And-- I don't know if this is wild to say, but I have a very hard time putting all of this on Vasilevskiy, if you're Tampa Bay.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Of course.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: He's not the reason why they're in this position. He's not the reason why they're down 2-0 in this series. I mean, do you want him to be a better goalie? Sure. But if you think of so many other reasons why the Tampa Bay Lightning are in the position they're in right now, I do not have Andre Vasilevskiy as the number one person to blame. I have a hard time thinking that.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: No, I mean, I think his-- his performances reflected the team's. When they had a chance in game 1, it was because he was suddenly great in that second period and gave the Lightning a chance to get back into it. And they've just been outperformed the entire series, and the fact that they gave up 7 is more reflective of the team and the coaching than it is the goaltender, I think.