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Canes Have Blueprint for Goalie Rotation Success

Schonfelder: 'If you have two guys who are capable and can play, why not play them?'

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

In each of the last two seasons, the Carolina Hurricanes have approached their goaltending as more of a tandem system rather than forcing the traditional starter and backup roles.

It's a shift in mindset that is, to varying degrees, trending around the league, but the Canes already have an established comfortability and model of success.

With a 56-game schedule that features 10 sets of back-to-back games, 26 two-game sets against seven divisional opponents and just one gap in between games that's longer than two days in the next four-and-a-half months, routinely being able to rotate between goaltenders is going to be critical to team success.

"It's going to be tough to ride one goalie in this schedule. I don't see how you could do it," head coach Brind'Amour said. "It's good to know we've already done this rotation with these two guys and feel real confident in it."

In 2018-19, it was Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney. In 2019-20, it was Mrazek and James Reimer. In 2020-21, it's once again Mrazek and Reimer.

Mrazek posted a 21-16-2 record, a 2.69 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 40 games last season. Reimer finished 14-6-2 with a 2.66 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 25 games.

Video: ARI@CAR: Mrazek records third shutout of the season

Both recorded three shutouts, the first goaltending pair in franchise history to do so in a single season. On Jan. 10 (Mrazek) and Jan. 11 (Reimer), the Canes notched back-to-back shutouts for just the second time in franchise history and the first time with two different goalies.

Video: LAK@CAR: Reimer stops all 41 shots faced in 2-0 win

"They both look good and ready to go," Brind'Amour said. "It sets up well for this. This type of schedule isn't going to be an issue for us because we have two guys we like."

Brind'Amour typically defers to his goalie coach on game-to-game decision making. Calling the shots this season will be Paul Schonfelder, who was promoted from minor league goalie consultant, swapping roles with Jason Muzzatti. Since Schonfelder has been working in the organization for the last two seasons, he was already familiar with Mrazek and Reimer, but he's spent the last few months breaking down tape and developing a comfortable workflow with his netminding duo.

"You're going to need both guys," he said. "If you have two guys who are capable and can play, why not play them? To have two guys is key." 

The relationship between Mrazek and Reimer is one that mimics that team-first approach and embraces the competitive drive they both instinctively own.

"I think our friendship is really, really good," Mrazek said. "We try to be as good as we can as friends and help each other on and off the ice."

Video: "We got a bunch of guys with skill and heart."

"The relationship is great. Pete's a great guy. He's a great goalie partner, and he's been awesome ever since I came here," Reimer said. "I think we help each other and push each other."

The two, though, couldn't be more disparate in their playing styles. Mrazek is an active body who relies on athleticism, while Reimer is more comfortable in his crease, but both are trying to accomplish the same thing.

"They are different, but they're effective," Schonfelder said. "At the end of the day, it's whatever works for them. What helps us get wins is the important thing."

Video: "It was about time to get back."

Through informal skates and a week-and-a-half of training camp, Mrazek and Reimer are confident in their games, and the Canes are confident in their goaltending tandem.

"I think everyone looks really good," Mrazek said. "Everyone is ready to go and really excited for the season to start."

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