After the pregame skate this morning, Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour played coy when asked if he knew who his starter would be tonight saying, “Yep. … I can’t be the guy that does that, right? I know who we’re starting, but I guess you’ll have to wait and see. Sorry.”
Petr Mrazek’s been patrolling the crease for most of the playoffs, outside of two and a half games where Curtis McElhinney filled in while he was injured. Mrazek and McElhinney split the net for most of the regular season with Mrazek getting the edge coming down the stretch. With his below average play since coming back from his second round injury, it’s fair to ask whether or not it’s time to turn back to McElhinney.
Carolina’s given its goalies every opportunity to succeed, giving up the least amount of shots per game out of the four teams remaining and in fact, Mrazek’s faced the least amount of shots from the slot. His numbers though are not kind to him.
The really important number there is the actual to expected goals against. His 0.28 is the worst of any goalie remaining and the only goalie to have a positive metric. This means that compared to league average goaltending, Mrazek is giving up more than one extra goal every four games. That’s just not going to cut it for a team that needs to dig themselves out of a two-game hole.
During the two and a half games that McElhinney played in the second round, he was lights out. It was a very small sample size but if he can play even close to these numbers, he’ll be giving the Hurricanes a good chance at getting back into this series.
So should McElhinney get the nod tonight? He absolutely should. At the very least, a goalie change could light a fire under the players giving them that spark they need to fight their way back. A 2-0 series deficit is hard to overcome but the Hurricanes rallied in front of McElhinney when Mrazek went down so maybe giving McElhinney the start is exactly what they need to put them back on the right track.
(Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)