The Carolina Hurricanes got the better goaltending duo against the Rangers
The Carolina Hurricanes completed their sweep of the New York Rangers in the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to move on to the first round after the Hurricanes allowed only four goals from the young New York team who scored 16 goals in their last four games of the regular season.
Carolina was able to neutralize the Rangers’ offense through an extremely aggressive forecheck and outstanding performances from blueliners including newcomer Sami Vatanen, who we’ll discuss later. However, the most incredible storyline that emerges from this series is that Petr Mrazek and James Reimer outperformed the typically high scoring New York Rangers.
Petr Mrazek started games one and two, and allowed three goals on 50 shots with a .940 save percentage. James Reimer, in an unexpected twist, started game three and allowed one goal on 38 shots with a .974 save percentage. These numbers are fantastic on paper, but let’s break down what made this goalie duo shine in the qualifying round.
In addition to the now legendary “Dear Gussy” from Mike Maniscalco, I love how Tripp Tracy breaks down the second save from the video above by Petr Mrazek in the first period of game two which allows the Hurricanes to keep their one-point lead:
"“This is just a sensational save from Petr. He’s made a commitment knowing he’s not going to get a piece of that centering attempt. Talk about making his glove big. . . he moves into the shooting angle with his glove that makes that glove coverage bigger into that angle and allows him to watch it with his eyes right into the glove”."
Later in the game, Maniscalco dubs Petr Mrazek “Houdini with the glove”, and I think this is a great summary of Mrazek’s playoff performance. Mrazek excelled in tracking puck movement in both games, and this gave him the ability to make excellent glove saves.
A part of Mrazek’s goaltending that has always given me pause is his tendency to come out of the crease and play the puck closer to the shooter. I love the energy and desperation of this attack, but it fails when Mrazek can’t cover enough of the net from an exposed position. In these games, Mrazek was able to maintain that desperation for saves while playing tighter in the crease.
As for James Reimer, he was without a doubt the star of game three, a victory which clinched a first-round playoff appearance for the Hurricanes. I was surprised to see Reimer in net for game three after Mrazek performed so well in the first two games, but I am always thrilled when my surprise turns into an appreciation for a decision by Rod Brind’Amour and his staff.
After a save by Reimer towards the end of the first period of game three, Tripp Tracy mentions the layers that Reimer uses to stop the puck. Unlike Mrazek, Reimer tends to stay tucked into the crease, and this is an example of how he uses his size to block the shooting angle.
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Then comes the save that will live in playoff infamy towards the end of the second period which gives Carolina the momentum heading to the third period. Reimer stops a close shot from Brenden Lemieux but can’t hold onto the puck. Jaccob Slavin ends up behind Reimer along with Sami Vatanen who stops a shot with his shoulder before Reimer lunges to stop a shot from Filip Chytil.
There are so many things to break down about this moment, but what stands out to me is the desperation of this save that exemplifies the Canes’ playoff effort in the qualifying round. Slavin and Vatanen dive in to make the save while Reimer is out of the play, and Reimer’s lunging save before the puck is cleared demonstrates what desperation can do for a team.
Reimer said this about the save:
"“Guys are diving all over the place. There’s no technique there. Just throw your paddle out and hope it hits it.”"
Reimer is calm, cool, and collected on and off the ice as this statement demonstrates. His paddle did hit the puck, and ultimately gave the Canes the edge on the path to victory.
Mrazek and Reimer were doubted by many heading into the playoffs. Many thought that the Rangers’ excellence in net would be the end of the Canes’ playoff hopes. Not only did Mrazek and Reimer prove critics wrong by anchoring the team in the qualifying round, but they have proven that they can carry the team through a deep playoff run.
Desperation is something that hockey fans love to talk about because it makes hockey teams excellent. If anyone doubted the talent in Carolina, there is no room for doubt anymore. A team has to be desperate for the win, and that desperation starts in net. The good news for the Hurricanes is that Mrazek and Reimer are just getting started.