Thibault: Another scare in Carolina
First-round pick of the Quebec Nordiques in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Jocelyn Thibault played 586 games during his 15-season NHL career. He played for the Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabers, scoring 238 wins. He coached the Avalanche goaltenders for two seasons and now owns the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL. He has agreed to work with the NHL.com team to deal with hot issues in front of the League’s 32 nets.
Oh, there must have been a few sighs of relief in the Carolina Hurricanes headquarters when we learned that Frederik Andersen was not seriously injured when he left the game against the Dallas Stars on Wednesday.
The last thing this team needs is another injury to their starting keeper. With a lower body problem, Andersen has already missed more than two months of activity this season, and it was only his fifth game since returning to action.
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It’s not just his assistants Antti Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov aren’t getting the job done in his absence – quite the opposite – but with such a competitive team sitting second overall, it would be best for him, and the Hurricanes, if he started to line up a few starts .
The Danish goaltender has played just 13 games this season, maintaining a 9-3-0 record, a 2.50 goals-against-average and a .905 save percentage. As we approach the home stretch of the campaign, let’s say that now would be a good time for him to take his err to go.
If he is truly one hundred percent and his mishap this week was just (another) little scare, Andersen has plenty of time to get back into sync and build up his playoff confidence. . With 34 games to go, it’s not at all worrying.
By getting starts regularly, he will be able to get used to the speed of the game and find his bearings. He had some difficulties during his first two outings when he returned to the game, but already, we were seeing rapid progress in terms of his efficiency rate. This is a completely normal adaptation.
And looking on the bright side, the 33-year-old veteran is likely to be well rested, given his time on the injured list. If he manages to stay healthy until then, he could be in top form when the spring tournament begins.
It will be remembered that he had to skip the playoffs last year due to a knee injury he suffered towards the end of the season. Raanta had had some good times, but not enough to allow his team to beat the New York Rangers in the second round.
It is this scenario that the Hurricanes must absolutely avoid.
Raanta and Kochetkov have proven they can do a good job, but would that be enough for a team as well equipped as the Hurricanes, which has the potential to go a long way? That opportunity doesn’t come around that often, so might as well rely on a well-established No. 1 when it does.
The frenzied rhythm of the playoffs represents quite a challenge for a goaltender who is not necessarily accustomed to the workload of a No. 1. The games are more intense, tighter and closer together. The physical work is very grueling, not to mention the mental side of it. It’s a heavy order.
The problem is that the Hurricanes have very little control over the situation. Against the backdrop of a salary cap with three goalkeepers already under contract, they can only cross their fingers that Andersen stays healthy, or resign themselves to putting their fate in the hands of Raanta or Kochetkov should things go wrong. .
Make way for a two-way fight
Closer to home, Martin St-Louis’ decision to send Samuel Montembeault in goal on Saturday, despite the return to health of Jake Allen, has just kicked off an alternating system in net for the Montreal Canadiens. And that’s exactly what had to be done.
In Allen’s absence, the Quebecer went 4-4-0 with a 2.63 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. Needless to say, he’s done enough to earn the right to challenge his counterpart to get more starts by the end of the season.
I see this situation in a good light for the Habs. I would be very surprised to hear that general manager Kent Hughes complains about what is taking shape in the net of his team.
In a reconstruction scenario, there is always a risk for a young goalkeeper who is trying to develop. Let’s say that with such a young defense – and a lot of injuries – it’s not really an ideal environment. The keeper is exposed to more dangerous shots and his confidence can take a hit quickly if things get bad.
For the moment, Montembeault has proven that it does not bother him too much. He learns the hard way and his performance is excellent under the circumstances. As long as it lasts, it will be good for his development. Then on the other side, there is a good experienced veteran like Allen, who still has good hockey to offer and who is fully aware of the situation in which his people find themselves.
You just have to find the balance between the two. It’s no small task, but it’s up to St-Louis to successfully complete it.
*Comments collected by Guillaume Lepage, NHL.com journalist