Ask anybody in the hockey world what the most important position in the sport is and you’ll get the same, resounding answer: Goaltending.
Goaltending is a fix-it patch that will cover up the majority of a team’s issues, but without reliable goaltending, it doesn’t matter if you have the best goal scorers in the game or if you allow less than 20 shots a game.
It all comes down to the goaltending. Even just average goaltending can take a team far. but if you start getting good to truly elite goaltending, that’s when you become the team to beat.
Pyotr Kochetkov is giving that kind of performance to the Carolina Hurricanes.
According to MoneyPuck.com, Kochetkov saved 1.85 goals above expected in last night’s affair against the Detroit Red Wings, moving him up to 9.5 GSAx on the season, good for seventh in the league... when he’s only played 12 games this year.
It was also his third shutout of the season, tying him for the league lead, and he became the first goaltender this season to post back-to-back shutout performances (Ilya Samsonov followed him up about one minute later) and first Hurricanes goalie to post back-to-back shutouts since Kevin Weekes in 2003.
While many had him tagged as the ‘Goalie of the Future,’ it’s now very apparent that he is actually the ‘Goalie of the Present.’
But the name of the game is consistency and longevity. Can Kocehtkov bring a stable presence to the net for Carolina, a team that has had 13 different netminders start at least one game over the last five seasons?
Only time will tell, but he seems like a good bet.
It will be interesting to see how Carolina handles the net once Frederik Andersen is back to being healthy. They’ll have three goaltenders up on the roster and it would make no sense to send Kochetkov down the way he is playing.
Maybe they decide to carry three because of the injury concerns they’ve faced or maybe there is a trade down the line, but whatever happens though, for the time being, it is clearly Kocehtkov’s net.
Also, remember when 11/7 was a death sentence for the Hurricanes in prior seasons? Like a guaranteed poor performance on top of a loss?
Now they’re like, “Well we’re without our number one center and top defensive winger, so let’s go get it,” and then they go out and get two shutout victories on the road. Crazy stuff.
And special teams was the difference in the game last night. A timely power play goal off a sick feed by Seth Jarvis, who has been heating up as of late with eight points in his last 10 games, was what they have been lacking a bit of earlier in the season.
Also good for Brady Skjei getting his first ever power play goal. He had played over 250 minutes on the power play (mostly with the New York Rangers), but had never had a power play goal until last night.
He’s been a steady offensive provider over the last two seasons and already has two game-winning goals this year.
Anyway, 11 out of 12 points on a season-long road trip is nearly a perfect result and with the Canes finally able to settle into some long homestands on the backend of the season, we should see some more consistent play.