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The Carolina Hurricanes the benefits of the grand 3-goalie experiment
Looking at how Carolina can optimize the trio of Pyotr Kochetkov, Frederik Andersen, and Antti Raanta.
In general, I’ve become a believer that if a team is going to win the Stanley Cup the goalies need to be either platooned or better load managed during the regular season.
I wrote about the situation in Dallas for D Magazine, about how the Stars need to invest in insurance so Jake Oettinger’s workload is cut down and better primed for the playoffs.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about the goalie situation with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Carolina’s future No. 1, and maybe even the present, is Pyotr Kochetkov. But they still re-signed both Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta this summer. My colleague over at EP Rinkside, Cam Robinson, hinted at this being caused by the Hurricanes uncertain AHL situation with the Chicago Wolves going independent on NHL affiliation.
It creates a situation in Carolina where the goalie split could be similar to the 2022-23 season, where Andersen had 33 starts, Raanta had 26, and Kochetkov had 23. That was caused, in part, by injuries, before Andersen and Raanta split the net in the playoffs.
Going into the 2023-24 season the Hurricanes have an opportunity to conduct a grand experiment with a designed three-goalie system. And more impressively, it only costs $6.9 million total against the cap total — making it much more palatable to carry three the entirety of the season.
With an 82 game schedule and a three-goalie rotation, one goalie would start 28 games while the other two would start 27.
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It won’t play out this way in reality. The best laid plans quickly fall apart when facing adversity, or in this case, a goalie injury. But let’s suspend disbelief slightly and assume we can make the plan happen.
Mapping this out using the Hurricanes schedule, on average the Carolina starting goalie would have 5.98 days of rest between starts. Even in the most condensed part of the schedule a goalie has four days of rest between games.
I’ll show you my work:
The Hurricanes on each night would likely have the more rested, healthy goalie. Over the course of 82 games, that’s an advantage any coach would ask for.
It would also allow rest to be maximized in back-to-back situations. When Carolina has a back-to-back, the goalie starting the second game could be flown ahead and get a comfortable night sleep in the city of game two. Because the Hurricanes would be carrying three NHL calibre goalies, an in-game injury or a goalie getting pulled based on performance wouldn’t impact the second half of the back-to-back.
Let’s pick a couple examples out of the schedule.
On Dec. 12 the Hurricanes play at the Ottawa Senators, Andersen would be starting with Raanta backing up.
The team would then fly to Detroit after the game, with Kochetkov scheduled to starts on Dec. 14 against the Red Wings. Raanta, however, would fly back to Carolina, and sleep in his own bed the night of the 14th back in Raleigh before starting the second game of a back-to-back on the 15th against the Nashville Predators.
On Feb. 16 Kochetkov would start the first game of a back-to-back against the Arizona Coyotes, with Andersen backing up. Raanta would fly to Vegas on that day, get a full night sleep in the hotel, and be waiting for the team to arrive for the second game of the back-to-back on Feb. 17.
A week later the Hurricanes have a back-to-back that starts at home against Dallas on Feb. 24. Raanta would be starting that game, Kochetkov would be backing up, and Andersen would be on a plane to Buffalo so he’s waiting for the team, well-rested for the second game of that back-to-back.
In the long run, this allows the Hurricanes to go into the playoffs with three well rested goalies, and even if they morphed to a true No. 1 for the postseason, the maximum games played for a goalie would be around 45.
This is an important distinction in my mind, because we’ve seen goalies wear down with time in the NHL. It even happens to the best of the best in the NHL, let’s look at the goalies that played more than 60 regular season games this season.
Three of them had a clear drop-off in performance after 40 games. Three others maintained or improved their play after hitting the 40 game mark.
Connor Hellebuyck’s save percentage for his first 40 games was .923. From Game 41 through 64 it dropped to .915.
Andrei Vasilevskiy’s save percentage for his first 40 games was .920, between games 41 and 60 it was .906.
Jake Oettinger’s save percentage for his first 40 games was .926. Between games 41 and 62 it was .907.
Alexander Georgiev’s save percentage for the first 40 games was .918. For games 41 through 62 it was also .918.
Ilya Sorokin’s save percentage for the first 40 games was .923. For games 41 through 62 it was .926.
Juuse Saros save percentage for his first 40 games was .917. For games 41 through 64 it was .921.
It should be noted that Sorokin and Georgiev continued strong play in the playoffs, while Saros didn’t get into the postseason. It would have been interesting to track Sorokin and Georgiev into the later rounds of the playoffs, but neither advanced past the first round.
While the Hurricanes will likely look for an AHL assignment for Kochetkov — he’s waiver-exempt and would be an attractive piece to another franchise looking to boost their AHL playoff hopes — the three-goalie designed system could be somewhat precedent setting for another NHL franchise in the future if it works.
After all, it’s a copy-cat league, right?