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Hurricanes-Lightning preview: Between the pipes

Alex Nedeljkovic and Andrei Vasilevskiy have been two of the best goalies in the NHL all season, and now they will face off in the second round of the 2021 NHL Playoffs.

Nashville Predators v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Alex Nedeljkovic and Andrei Vasilevskiy are set to battle it out in net when the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning open up their second round series tomorrow night in Raleigh. The two goaltenders have been key to their teams’ success this season, and for Vasilevskiy, his play was integral in Tampa’s Stanley Cup last season.

2021 Regular season record

Alex Nedljkovic 15-5-3

Andrei Vasilevskiy 31-10-1

James Reimer 15-5-2

Petr Mrazek 6-2-3

Curtis McElhinney 4-6-2

Regular Season GAA

Alex Nedeljkovic 1.90

Andrei Vasilevskiy 2.21

James Reimer 2.66

Petr Mrazek 2.06

Curtis McElhinney 3.09

Regular Season Save Percentage

Alex Nedeljkovic .932

Andrei Vasilevskiy .925

James Reimer .906

Petr Mrazek .923

Curtis McElhinney .875

2021 Playoff GAA

Alex Nedeljkovic 2.22

Andrei Vasilevskiy 2.64

2021 Playoff Save Percentage

Alex Nedelijkovic .922

Andrei Vasilevskiy .929

2021 Playoff Numbers

Both Nedeljkovic and Vasilevskiy have a 4-2 record and one shutout.

Alex Nedeljkovic

Heading into the postseason there were questions about how Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour would handle the goalie situation, especially after rotating three goalies for the later half of the season. Along with Ned, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer also played significant games and got the job done when they were out there.

Nedeljkovc was not even a factor when the season began, being a member of the taxi squad. In fact, once he was sent back to the taxi squad early in the season he was put on waivers and teams across the league had a chance to claim him, but luckily he cleared waivers and as they say, the rest is history.

Canes fans have known the potential of Nedeljkovic for several seasons now, watching his progress in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers. Ned was awarded the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Award in 2019 as the AHL Outstanding Goaltender. He was also named AHL First All-Star Team in 2019.

Petr Mrazek was injured a month into the season, an injury that saw him miss significant time. Nedeljkovic was called back up after the Mrazek injury and he played back up to Reimer. But Ned made sure that every time he was on the ice he gave it his all and he slowly got his name thrown into the mix as an every day starter.

He ended up making 23 starts in the regular season, posting a 15-5-3 record. He had a 1.90 GAA and a .932 save percentage, along with three shutouts. Nedeljkovic had the best numbers in the NHL for a goalie with at least 15 games played.

Let’s not forget that Nedeljkovic also got in the scoring column this season, getting an assist on Dougie Hamilton’s overtime winner against the Blue Jackets on May 1.

During the playoffs, Nedeljkovic ranks eighth among NHL goalies. He started every game of the opening series against the Nashville Predators, going 4-2.

He has a 2.22 GAA and a .922 save percentage so far this postseason. He is also one of six NHL goalies to record a shutout in this year’s postseason.

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Vasilveskiy has quickly become one of the top goaltenders in the NHL over recent years. He made his NHL debut in the 2014-15 season, even getting a win in the Cup Final in relief of Ben Bishop.

He became the Lightning starting goaltender the following season and hasn’t looked back since. Vasilevskiy has played in the NHL All-Star game in 2018, 2019 and 2020. In 2018-19 he won the Vezina Trophy as the top NHL goaltender after going 39-10-4 in 53 games. In 2020 he was once again a Vezina finalist, and although he didn’t win, he was still the NHL leader in wins with 35.

This season Vasilevskiy played in 42 games for the Lightning, the most games started by a goaltender this season. He was 31-10-1 in those games, posting a 2.21 GAA and .925 save percentage. Vasilevskiy also had five shutouts during the regular season.

Vasilevskiy also started every game for the Lightning in their first round matchup against the Florida Panthers. He had a 4-2 record with a 2.64 GAA and .929 save percentage. He also had one shutout in the opening series.