Assuming both teams go with their starters, the two best goalies in the NHL will be on the same 200 by 85 foot sheet of ice tonight.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Toronto Maple Leafs – Andrei Vasilevskiy vs Frederik Andersen.
If you think either goalie has had an easy ride because they play for a top-5 team, think again. The Lightning and Maple Leafs rank top-3 in the league in wins, goals and scoring chances. Neither team is top-20 in limiting scoring chances. Offense and goaltending drive the bus – team defense is along for the ride.
Let’s start with Vasilevskiy, unquestionably the best goalie in the league this season and the main reason Tampa Bay has a chance to finish with the best powerplay and penalty kill in the NHL.
Vasilevskiy leads the league with a .931 save percentage, which is remarkable when you consider the types of shots he’s faced all year. Only Cam Ward has seen more shots from the high-danger slot area, per game, than Vasilevskiy.
Despite the high degree of difficulty in the shots he faces, Vasilevskiy has been rock solid all season, in all situations, especially while his team is shorthanded. The Lightning have the best penalty kill in the league at 85.5% despite ranking 14th in expected goals against, per-60 minutes, at 7.6. Why? Their star goalie has, far and away, the best shorthanded save percentage of any goalie.
Add it all up and Vasilevskiy has saved his team just over a goal per game, relative to league average goaltending, based on shot quality and quantity. No one else is even close.
As for Andersen, he’s been a workhorse for the Leafs this season and should be a Vezina Trophy finalist when all is said and done. Nobody has faced more shots, nobody has stopped more shots and only Marc-Andre Fleury has won his team more games.
Toronto allows an average of 33 shots per game, 8th most in the league and like the Lightning, the Leafs give up a decent amount of quality chances. Andersen faces an average of just under 15 slot shots per game, 10th among qualified goalies. Still, he has the 8th best save percentage in the NHL, overall and on high-danger shots. It’s not surprising to see Andersen rank as high as he does in the Goals Saved Above Average list, shown above.
Unstoppable forces versus immovable objects. Tampa’s top ranked offense against a top-3 goalie and Toronto’s top-3 offense against the best goalie in the NHL.
Get your popcorn ready.
(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)