Now, I usually label this section ‘The Goaltending’ but, if I’m being real, Irbe was the bottom line for the Hurricanes in goal. The diminutive Latvian played in a career-high 77 games, winning 37. With Eric Fichaud and Mark Fitzpatrick gone, Rutherford hit the free-agent market to land a new backup.
On August 9, 2000, he signed Tyler Moss, ex of the Calgary Flames. Moss was coming off of a two-year stint in Calgary behind some bad teams. In 11 appearances for the Flames in 1999-2000 he posted an unimpressive 3-7 record, however, both his goals-against average (2.51) and save percentage (.922) were very respectable.
So, nobody will deny that Irbe was a workhorse for the Hurricanes (he averaged 52 starts over his six-year stint in Carolina), but what about Moss? Well, I’ve always been told that it’s better to hold your tongue than to spew venom, so let’s just take a look at the goaltending stats:
You can see why my focus is on Irbe. Not only did he carry the load, but his six shutouts tied him for the sixth-best mark in the league. His goals-against average put him 22nd in the league among goalies who played at least 25 games. More impressive (though not for the defense) is the fact that he led the league in both shots faced (1947) and saves (1767).
Thanks in no small part to Irbe’s heroics, the Carolina Hurricanes made a return to the playoffs. Awaiting them was a first-round matchup against the defending Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils.