McHugh: Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy 'best big-game athlete' in world right now


Only six players in NHL history have earned the Conn Smythe Trophy -- which is awarded to the league's postseason MVP -- more than once in their career. But, before the month ends, one of hockey's most exclusive clubs might add a seventh member. With more four wins, the Tampa Bay Lightning will become just the fourth team to win three straight Stanley Cups, and the mission will be led by superstar goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, the reigning Conn Smythe winner.

In Game 6 of the East Finals, Vasilevskiy saved 24 of 25 shots in Tampa Bay's series-clinching win over the New York Rangers. And the reigning champions have now won 11 consecutive playoff series -- the third-longest streak in NHL history. Cup runs are almost always defined by elite goaltending, and through 17 playoff games, Vasilevskiy's allowed just 2.27 goals on average, the NHL's second-best mark. He also has a career .925 save percentage in the playoffs.

"Andrei Vasilevskiy may be the best big-game athlete, regardless of the sport, right now in the world," NHL on TNT host Liam McHugh explained to The Zach Gelb Show on Tuesday. "If you have one game you want to win and if you want someone in a huge role in a team sport, Vasilevskiy should be your No. 1 pick, regardless of sport. He's that good, and he's that locked-in... And I'd still want Vasilevskiy in a one-win, make-or-break game.

"Right now, when you take into account every single big game... Look, I think you're splitting hairs. Tom Brady is an all-timer and he's a better athlete -- he's the GOAT. But, I think you can also look at Vasilevskiy right now. And we have Rick Tocchet, he put up his Mt. Rushmore of goalies and had Vasilevskiy as a lock. And this guy can still play for another 10 years. So we may be looking at, eventually, the greatest goalie in the history of the NHL."

Tampa Bay, which recorded 110 points in the Atlantic Division this season, will visit the Colorado Avalanche for Game 1 of the Cup Final on Wednesday night (8 ET). According to FiveThirtyEight, the Lightning have a 38-percent chance to become the first team since the 1980s New York Islanders to capture three straight Stanley Cups. If the Avalanche win, it'll be their second championship in franchise history and first since 2001.

The entire Stanley Cup Final conversation between McHugh and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.

You can follow The Zach Gelb Show on Twitter @ZachGelb and Tom Hanslin @TomHanslin.