Carolina Hurricanes risk everything for new goalkeepers


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Carolina <a class=Hurricanes’ goalie Freddy Andersen (31) skates during the opening day of training camp on Thursday, September 23, 2021 at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC” title=”Carolina Hurricanes’ goalie Freddy Andersen (31) skates during the opening day of training camp on Thursday, September 23, 2021 at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC” loading=”lazy”/>

Carolina Hurricanes’ goalie Freddy Andersen (31) skates during the opening day of training camp on Thursday, September 23, 2021 at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC

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There can be a little lost in the millions given in new contracts to new and old players in a summer of near constant churn and turnover, amid squad movements and wage cap gimmicks.

There’s still a big question on this team and no one knows the answer.

There is no doubt that the Carolina Hurricanes are a playoff team off the net. They have proven over the past three seasons that they are capable even when nothing is guaranteed year after year.

This season, like almost every season, will result in the one position that has changed more than any other. The Hurricanes will be as good as Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta, period. End of the story. It starts with Andersen on Thursday against the New York Islanders.

“We will play against both of them,” said Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour. “We know that. But I think he’s ready to go.”

And, OK, yeah, let’s take a moment to understand that there’s a bit of dog-bite-man there. Nobody gets into the playoffs without a good goalkeeper. Nobody gets on without nearly perfect goalkeepers. You can outplay a weak third defensive pairing or poor power play, but there is no way to hide on the net.

The Hurricanes have effectively messed up bodies for the past three years – Petr Mrazek, Curtis McElhinney, James Reimer, Alex Nedeljkovic – with results that have been sometimes respectable and sometimes exceptional, certainly good enough to get the Hurricanes through the regular season.

But the Hurricanes have now lost the goalkeeper battle three times on their way to eliminations, and while premature injuries played a role, it’s undeniable that the Hurricanes didn’t get the post-season goalkeeper they needed when they needed it – even when Tuukka Rask was out in the Toronto Bubble.

Andrei Vasilevskiy may be the gold standard, but that doesn’t mean the Hurricanes can’t find anyone to trump them for two weeks. At least they had to try.

Andersen and Raanta are tasked with providing this young core with so much leeway to maximize its considerable potential and maximize the new veteran depth.

Andersen is asked to do what he couldn’t do in Toronto, where he has never won a playoff series with the Maple Leafs. When Raanta was healthy, he played at an elite level; that just hasn’t been enough lately.

Suffice it to say, weren’t the Hurricanes just better off with Mrazek and Nedeljkovic? (Especially when the Leafs decided to replace Andersen with … Mrazek.)

Fair to ask. And yet to answer, to be sure. But even with this uncertainty, there are some good reasons to expect that the Hurricanes will not only be better, but better too far better off with this tandem than their predecessors.

The ceiling is higher, especially when Raanta can get back to his best form. The ground is higher given Andersen’s proven reliability in the regular season. Without any disrespect for Mrazek or Nedeljkovic, less has to be perfect for the hurricanes to land in a better place.

“Of course we’ve played them in the past,” said Hurricanes center Vincent Trocheck. “You are two elite goalkeepers. I think Freddie was great in Toronto. He was always hard to beat. We look forward to having him there again. “

There’s a bit of yin and yang involved, the stable Dane and the energetic Finn, probably a good balance for a coach whose goal is for his two goalkeepers to play 41 games in the end. Despite their résumés, they both have everything to prove. You will get this chance.

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock joined The News & Observer in 2000 and has covered five Final Fours, the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl, and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. Born in Evanston, Illinois, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and won several national and state awards for his columns and feature writing, while being twice named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.

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