Hurricanes have no chance vs. Bruins unless they get much better goaltending

Scott McLaughlin
May 13, 2019 - 12:11 am

After watching Petr Mrazek give up six goals in Sunday’s Game 2, on the heels of giving up four in Game 1, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said he didn’t pull his goalie because Mrazek didn’t want to come out and that “he has earned that right from me to stay in there.”

Maybe so. But this is going to be a very short series if the Hurricanes don’t get much better goaltending, and get it fast.

Due to the combination of Tuukka Rask playing great at the other end and the Bruins having a deeper team in general, the Hurricanes simply can’t afford subpar goaltending. But that’s exactly what they’re getting, and it’s a big reason they’re now down 2-0 in the series.

Brind’Amour said there was really only one goal on Sunday that Mrazek would want back -- the first one, a low-angle shot from Matt Grzelcyk that somehow squeaked through Mrazek and trickled over the goal line.

But taking a closer look, it’s fair to say he should’ve done better on the Bruins’ third and fourth goals as well. On the third, he badly overcommitted by coming out to challenge Marcus Johansson, leaving behind a wide-open net for Connor Clifton.

On the fourth, he once again overcommitted after Charlie Coyle fed Grzelcyk in the slot, allowing Grzelcyk to make a quick move to his backhand and end up with a good chunk of the net open for an easy finish.

Mrazek is an aggressive goalie. If you’re the Hurricanes, the hope is that aggressiveness saves you more goals than it costs you. That hasn’t been the case in this series, though. The Bruins have clearly figured out that if you get Mrazek moving or draw him out of the crease, things will open up. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said as much after the game.

“(Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa) does his presentation on the goaltender, and that’s been discussed,” Cassidy said of Mrazek’s aggressiveness. “Even the first chance (David Pastrnak) had, he was way out, so we talk about well maybe you have to take the extra step. Now, Pasta was getting closed on ... I just think in the heat of the moment the player makes the decision, but if you can get him moving… With (Sergei) Bobrovsky we talked about that, very athletic, challenging. I think Mrazek’s similar.”

Brind’Amour may not have wanted to replace Mrazek with Curtis McElhinney mid-game, but making the switch before Game 3 might be his best chance of getting back in this series. At least force the Bruins to figure out another goalie rather than risk them continuing to beat Mrazek at his own game.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that the first two games of this series have been decided entirely by goaltending. The Bruins have outplayed the Hurricanes in every other facet as well. But it sure is hard to ignore the difference between the pipes.

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