The Carolina Hurricanes have recorded four shutouts in the last four weeks. That number could have reached five had they managed to keep the Kings off the scoresheet in the 6-1 Tuesday night rout in PNC Arena. Nonetheless, their four shutouts over the span of ten games sets a franchise record for shutouts in a month. But the most impressive aspect of the record setting month in goal is the fact that both goaltenders had a hand in it.
Curtis McElhinney picked up his first shutout against the Penguins in a huge road win, and Petr Mrazek matched him later in the road trip with a shutout against the Rangers to break the Madison Square Garden curse. Then both goalies picked up their second shutouts of the month in games versus the Dallas Stars as the Canes snatched the two-game season series from a team they’ve historically had little luck against.
A run of four shutouts in ten games just isn’t possible without consistently strong goaltending from both members of the tandem. Mrazek and McElhinney have been up to the task, posting Save Percentages of .953 and .945 respectively since the start of the month. Both of those are top ten in the league among goaltenders who have seen at least 180 minutes of ice time. Mrazek’s 4.79 Goals Saved Above Average and McElhinney’s 3.39 are both top 15 in the league this month — only one other team in the NHL has both goaltenders performing that much higher than average in February.
Mrazek has been nothing short of miraculous in some situations over the past few weeks. His High Danger Save Percentage and High Danger Goals Allowed Average in the month of February reflects that at .975% and 0.18 respectively — both are best in the NHL in that time frame. And his 5.64 High Danger Goals Saved Above Average, second in the league behind only Andrei Vasilevskiy, indicates that he’s saved a lot of scoring chances that average NHL goaltenders wouldn’t get in front of.
McElhinney’s high danger numbers haven’t been as hot as Mrazek’s, but he’s had significantly more rebound attempts against him while also having less time on ice. This is likely a direct cause of McElhinney’s low average shot distance of 33.34 feet — third lowest in the NHL during February amongst goaltenders who have played at least 180 minutes (Cam Ward’s is the lowest).
For some reason, teams are getting shots on net against McElhinney from much closer than Mrazek this month. We may be able to chalk that up to different level of competition or even just small sample size, but either way I’d be willing to wager that McElhinney’s numbers would be closer to the top of the goaltending pack with Mrazek this month if he was seeing the same type of shots as his counterpart.
We talked about goaltending since the start of the new year in By The Numbers a few weeks ago and came to the conclusion that the tandem was playing well, but not significantly above league average. That has since changed. There’s good reason to believe that the Hurricanes would not be in the same position that they are now without the exceptional play from both backstops.
The margin for error is getting exponentially smaller as the team enters what may be their toughest month on the schedule in terms of level of competition. The goaltenders have exceeded expectations over the past four months, and the Hurricanes will need them to remain playing at that high level in order to come out of March on the right side of the playoff line.