2021 Carolina Hurricanes Season Preview: The Lineup

TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 03: Andrei Svechnikov #37 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates with teammates after scoring his second goal against the New York Rangers during the second period of Game Two of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 3, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - AUGUST 03: Andrei Svechnikov #37 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates with teammates after scoring his second goal against the New York Rangers during the second period of Game Two of the Eastern Conference Qualification Round prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 3, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images) /
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RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA – FEBRUARY 25: Dave Ayres sounds the warning siren during the game between the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on February 25, 2020, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ayres, in emergency relief, recorded eight saves, the win, and first-star honors in his National Hockey League debut with the Carolina Hurricanes in their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 22. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA – FEBRUARY 25: Dave Ayres sounds the warning siren during the game between the Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on February 25, 2020, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Ayres, in emergency relief, recorded eight saves, the win, and first-star honors in his National Hockey League debut with the Carolina Hurricanes in their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 22. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The Goaltending

Yup. What does it always come down to? Now, this is not nearly as dire as it has been in years prior. The current crop of Canes goaltenders is a far cry from the whole it used to be on the roster. Both Petr Mrazek and James Reimer have shown themselves to be very capable of playing the position and doing a good job to help the team. However, they’re not all cherries and rosebuds.

Starting with Reimer, he’s not a starter. His ability to play the backup role and provide the starter with relief at a high level is perfect. .914 save percentage from someone who can give a starter a rest every now and again is a fine save percentage. His only issue is that he suffers from a lot of injury woes and isn’t capable of starting for long periods of time.

Mrazek is the opposite. When Mrazek is on, and he’s playing well, he’s one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. I point you to the 2019 games in Colorado where Mrazek turned into a wall denying the Avalanche anything. His issue is consistency. He’ll be hot for 6 or 7 games a season, outside of that he’s so hit and miss. It’s so annoying when you understand his upside, and just don’t see it.

Now, this isn’t a knock on Mrazek. There’s a lot to the game of a goaltender that is more complex than I can justify with numbers. For example, Mrazek may have a lower save percentage if he plays 5 games against Tampa than if he plays 5 games against Detroit due to the difference in the quality of the opponent. However, this just isn’t the case with Mrazek.

In his 16 playoff/play-in games with the Carolina Hurricanes, he has a measly .906 save percentage. They’re winning almost in spite of Mrazek in terms of the numbers. Reimer’s is far better at a .934 save percentage, but he has only played 3 games, and he was just phenomenal. So, how Carolina does will really come down to these two.

With solidified goaltending, there’s no reason the Carolina Hurricanes cannot compete for the cup. Without it, there remains a serious risk of more mediocrity. If Petr Mrazek can take that next step and figure out how to play as well as he can do every game, and develop that level of consistency, or if the Canes pick up a starting goaltender elsewhere, maybe they become true contenders.

Now, I know you’re probably looking through everything I’ve said so far and wondering “Hey, isn’t there some American goaltender playing for the Chicago Wolves who could be used?” While the answer is yes, we will progress onto him specifically in a moment. For those of you wondering “What about the Zamboni driver?” well, the Canadian border is shut you see.