The Carolina Hurricanes would be perhaps one of the largest favorites in the first round of the playoffs if not for one thing: Ilya Sorokin.
The biggest gap between these two teams comes from the situation between the pipes. While the New York Islanders will have a guaranteed Vezina-finalist in net for Game 1, the Carolina Hurricanes are still trying to decide who will be their starting netminder.
Heading into the postseason, the Hurricanes couldn’t have had a worse time for the quality of its goaltending to drop off.
Before March, the Hurricanes were boasting one of the strongest goaltending tandems in the league with three guys each having at least 10 wins, a combined 0.909 save percentage, and six shutouts between them all.
The only problem was wondering which pair would be healthy enough to go the length.
Then came March, where not a single netminder had higher than a 0.898 save percentage and it seemed like Carolina didn’t have a guy to go to.
Results have been stronger so far in April, but not by much.
So who should get the coveted first start?
By The Numbers:
|Goaltender||Record||Save Percentage||GAA||GSAx||PK Sv%|
|Goaltender||Record||Save Percentage||GAA||GSAx||PK Sv%|
|Frederik Andersen||21-11-1||0.903 (33rd)||2.48 (12th)||-3.5 (78th)||0.873 (27th)|
|Antti Raanta||19-3-3||0.910 (23rd)||2.23 (4th)||1.3 (44th)||0.858 (42nd)|
|Pyotr Kochetkov||12-7-5||0.909 (25th)||2.44 (9th)||4.9 (27th)||0.918 (1st)|
|Ilya Sorokin||31-22-7||0.924 (3rd)||2.34 (7th)||38.7 (3rd)||0.894 (9th)|
|Semyon Varlamov||11-9-2||0.913 (21st)||2.7 (22nd)||3.5 (32nd)||0.880 (20th)|
Andersen was supposed to be the guy last year on the back of a Vezina-caliber comeback season, but after he tore his meniscus in a late season game against the Colorado Avalanche, that no longer was an option.
Coming into this season, the hope was to see him continue where he left off, but that hasn’t been the case.
Andersen had a rough start to the year and quickly went onto IR after sustaining an injury in practice. He would miss the next 29 games nursing that injury, but when he came back, he was hot.
He seemed unbeatable, with 9 wins in hist first 10 games back, but quickly that swagger unraveled.
Andersen hasn’t been bad, but he also hasn’t been good. He’s been average at best this season with sprinkles of rough games and great games. He’s had a penchant for making some really tough saves in sequence, but then he lets in an easy goal off the rush or through the five-hole.
The biggest issue regarding him this season is that inconsistency.
Andersen got the bulk of the games this season and finished with a 21-11-1 record along with a 0.903 save percentage, 2.48 goals against average and one shutout.
Against opponents who made the postseason this year, Andersen is 11-7-1 with a 0.889 save percentage and 2.7 GAA.
Against the Islanders this season, he is 2-1-0 with a 0.905 save percentage and 2.67 GAA.
Odds are that he gets that first start, but he will have an incredibly short leash.
Last year was Raanta’s first ever time starting in the postseason and he was awesome when he was actually taking the ice. He finished the playoffs with a 6-5-0 record but with a 0.922 save percentage and 2.26 GAA. However, just like this season, injuries took a lot out of him.
Raanta has had the better numbers this season – a 19-3-3 record with a 0.910 save percentage and 2.23 goals against average with four shutouts – but he’s been out of the lineup due to injury more than anyone else.
His record is marvelous looking at the surface but the real question is who has Raanta actually beaten this year?
He’s only started five games against teams that made the postseason and while he is 3-2-1 in those games, he sports a 0.897 save percentage and 2.67 goals against average in those games, numbers that aren’t much better than Andersen.
Raanta also did not play the Islanders this season.
Maybe Raanta won’t get the start, but he deserves a chance. Nobody has battled harder than him, even when it’s apparent that his body is working against him.
While he won’t be considered for the starting job, the Hurricanes may very well see Kochetkov again this season should injuries flare up amongst the other two.
The rookie sensation saw his luck start to peter out as the season went on, showing that his time is still a bit of a ways off, but that’s not to say we might not still see him at some point in the postseason, especially with the injury history of the other netminders on the roster.
He came in multiple times when the Hurricanes’ main tandem kept alternating stints on IR and finished the year with a 12-7-5 record along with a 0.909 save percentage, 2.44 goals against average and four shutouts.
He made appearances last postseason and has already captured the hearts of the city, but it isn’t his time yet.
The Islanders’ young Russian ace is what sits between the Hurricanes and the second round of the playoffs. He’s the one factor that has the ability to steal the series no matter what Carolina throws his way.
Sorokin finished off the regular season with a 31-22-7 record and posted a 0.924 save percentage, 2.34 goals against average with six shutouts.
According to MoneyPuck.com, Sorokin also finished third in the entire NHL with 38.7 goals saved above expected. For reference, the Hurricanes’ three goaltenders combined to save 2.7 goals above expected.
No goaltender has been as good over the past two seasons as Sorokin has been and that’s the wall that’s standing in the Hurricanes’ way.
New head coach Lane Lambert hasn’t given Sorokin as much stifling support as Barry Trotz’s system gave Sorokin, but the results from the Russian netminder were just as good regardless.
The entire series is going to be based upon Sorokin’s performances.