Mrazek leading the way as Hurricanes seek to end playoff drought

5 Comments

It’s been pretty good to be Petr Mrazek of late.

The Carolina Hurricanes goaltender has helped the team win six straight starts as they’ve moved into the Metropolitan Division’s third spot, six points behind the first-place Washington Capitals with 13 games to go.

On Monday night, Mrazek’s robbery of Colin Wilson helped preserve a 38-save shutout against the Colorado Avalanche:

“A little bit athletic save maybe,” Mrazek said afterward. “I tried to get the pad and stick. Sometimes those saves are lucky.”

Mrazek, who signed a one-year, $1.5M contract over the summer, and Curtis McElhinney have been the answer in goal for the Hurricanes after Scott Darling failed to rebound following a disastrous 2017-18 season. The pair have helped solve a huge issue that held the team back, with the 27-year-old Czech Republic native grabbing the No. 1 reins of late.

“Everybody is always looking for an opportunity and wants that opportunity,” Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said last week via the News and Observer. “Our goalies have seized it this year and have been our MVPs.”

Since Feb. 1, Mrazek is second among all goaltenders with at least 10 appearances in even strength save percentage (.948) and shutouts (3).

Both McElhinney and Mrazek have not only helped the Hurricanes but also themselves as strong finishes would bode well in possible extension talks or, should they reach July 1 unsigned, unrestricted free agency. Last month, Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell told Tom Gullitti of NHL.com that he was approaching the trade deadline looking for “maybe a goalie for down the road,” citing the potential UFA status of both netminders. He stayed pat and it’s their net the rest of the way.

Beyond this season, it might be easy to predict that Mrazek has earned an extension to be back in Carolina, while the soon-to-be 36-year-old McElhinney, a career journeyman, could likely move on to join his eighth NHL team. Both have played above their career averages and regression could be in their future, but for now the Hurricanes are going to ride the wave — one that could take them into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009.

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.