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By the Numbers: The Goaltending Tandem

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The Hurricanes are among the best in the NHL since the new year. We take a look at how much goaltending has played a part in the hot streak.

Jamie Kellner

The Hurricanes ran over the Penguins in enemy territory last night as they cruised to a 4-0 victory in Curtis McElhinney’s first shutout as a Carolina Hurricanes player. An extraordinary effort from the steady veteran carried the Hurricanes to their 10th win since the new year — no team in the NHL has won more games in that time frame.

Despite a hot record since we turned our calendars, traditional goaltending benchmarks don’t paint the tandem in a positive light. Neither Mrazek or McElhinney have crested the .900 mark since the beginning of the year, and both of their Goals Allowed Averages are above three. But as you’d expect, those don’t really tell the whole story.

2019 Goaltending Statistics

Goaltender TOI Save Percentage Even Strength Save Percentage High Danger Save Percentage Goals Allowed Average Goals Saved Above Average High Danger Goals Saved Above Average Average Shot Distance Average Goal Distance Rebound Attempts Per 60 Minutes High Danger Shots Against
Goaltender TOI Save Percentage Even Strength Save Percentage High Danger Save Percentage Goals Allowed Average Goals Saved Above Average High Danger Goals Saved Above Average Average Shot Distance Average Goal Distance Rebound Attempts Per 60 Minutes High Danger Shots Against
Petr Mrazek 430:39 .884 .907 .767 3.24 -0.67 -2.64 39.26 18.63 2.27 60
Curtis McElhinney 250:19 .899 .915 .872 3.51 0.60 1.16 33.5 29.20 3.95 39

I’ve attached relevant goaltending metrics since the start of the new year above for you to pick through. Clearly Mrazek has put together a larger body of work — that’s mostly due to a nagging lower body injury that kept McElhinney out of the lineup for the second half of January leading into the long All-Star break.

Despite the time off, McElhinney has continued to play at a higher level than one would expect from a veteran backup. Outside of a really tough game against the New York Rangers earlier this month in which he allowed six goals on 28 shots, McElhinney has been nearly spotless in 2019. His positive Goals Saved Above Average tells us that he’s performing a higher level than an average NHL goaltender based on the shots he’s been seeing, and it’s likely that the number would be significantly higher if he didn’t get the start in Madison Square Garden a few weeks ago.

On the other hand, Mrazek’s GSAA is in the negatives over the past month, but it’s important to note that 14 of his 19 goals allowed in the time frame were high danger shots against. To me this indicates that he’s been mostly saving the shots that he’s supposed to. The eye test is especially helpful when assessing goaltending, and I don’t think there’s any cause for concern with Mrazek.

We know that not all shots are created equal, and an attacking team has a much better chance of scoring on a rebound attempt, many of which are within the criteria of a high danger shot. Curtis McElhinney has been seeing these types of shots at a much higher rate than Mrazek. What I’ve liked about McElhinney since his arrival in Carolina is his seemingly calculated rebound control and a calm steadiness that allows him to stay quiet and in position despite the hell breaking loose around the crease.

McElhinney’s 17 rebound attempts against and lower average shot distance shows that he’s getting shots from consistently closer than Mrazek. His average goal distance is significantly farther than Mrazek’s over the past month, most likely indicating that he’s handling these high danger shot types better.

The Hurricanes are 10-4-1 since New Years Day. From what I can tell, goaltending in that time frame hasn’t been great, but it’s been good enough. Goaltending is a position that aging usually has a large negative impact on, but McElhinney is managing to have a career year at the age of 35. Mrazek is enjoying a renaissance after a disappointing stint last season with the Red Wings and Flyers. The goaltending by committee has yielded surprisingly solid results, and for the first time in years, we don’t have to worry about what type of performance the team is going to get in net on a night-to-night basis — that’s refreshing.