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The goaltending situation for the Carolina Hurricanes is a classic storyline: the established city sheriff versus the new kid in town.
But for the Carolina Hurricanes, this isn’t a one-or-the-other situation. Rather, it’s both-and-the-equipment-manager.
Scott Darling’s arrival, brought on by a fortunate UFA situation and only costing the Canes a third-round pick, is sure to improve the goaltending situation faced by Carolina last year. Eddie Lack was very volatile, though his GAA bested the Canes long-time starter Cam Ward, and Michael Leighton posted a sub-.900 save percentage in his token appearances.
The only surefire relief for the Hurricanes? Equipment manager Jorge Alves, who shut out his competition when he touched the ice. That’s right: zero goals against in his NHL career.
Darling, in a backup role to Corey Crawford, beat Ward last season in GAA and save percentage, but Ward struggled to stay healthy during the season. When he isn’t 100 percent on the ice, he often lets easy shots in, unlike Crawford.
And especially unlike Alves, who is rumored to have had a handful of shutout practice sessions last season as well.
The Hurricanes had better hope that Darling and Ward can perform, with their combined cap hit at around $7.5 million this year. Darling’s share of that hit, $4.15 million, comes after only three years of NHL play, outpricing the veteran Ward.
In that sense, it’s a blessing in disguise that Alves is still around. He agreed to a $500 tryout contract last year only to nail the audition with a perfect GAA. I’m sure that may boost his contract into the thousands — or even tens of thousands — but either way, the Hurricanes have a steal on their hands.
In all goalie scenarios, the Hurricanes will have a true leader in goal. Darling came in as a starter four times in his rookie season with the Blackhawks to earn a Stanley Cup victory, going 3-1 in those starts. Ward has done the same since he went 15-8 in the playoffs in his rookie season with the Hurricanes, also winning a Stanley Cup. Alves, in his rookie year in ECHL, played for not one, but two playoff-contending teams, the South Carolina Stingrays and the Greenville Grrrowl, allowing only 1 goal in 33 minutes the entire season.
Darling’s stats have fallen since his rookie season, Ward’s have stagnated over the years, but Alves went from five goals allowed in his most recent season, 2006-2007 with the Pensacola Ice Pilots, to zero with the Hurricanes. The time off seems to have helped him regroup.
Just like the team’s equipment room, the Hurricanes seem to be in good hands in 2017-2018 with this three-person unit in goal. Jorge Alves will be the Canes’ ace in the hole, and with a perfect goaltending record on the line the next time he steps on the ice, he could make a big difference in the Canes’ season.