Hurricanes play coy with Game 5 goalie against Rangers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Frederik Andersen was the first goalie off the ice for the Carolina Hurricanes at their morning skate Monday ahead of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Typically, first goalie off indicates who the starter will be in that game. However, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour played it coy when asked if Andersen will start the must-win fifth game of this best-of-7 series that Carolina trails 3-1.

“Maybe,” Brind’Amour responded.

Andersen has started three of four games in this series, including Carolina’s 4-3 win in Game 4 in Raleigh on Saturday. The 34-year-old hast started eight of Carolina’s nine games in the postseason, including all five when it knocked out the New York Islanders in the first round.

However, Andersen has looked tired, which is not too surprising since he missed four months with a blood-clotting issue before returning March 7. Though he won nine of 10 regular-season starts down the stretch, Andersen rotated starts with Pyotr Kochetkov so as not to be overworked.

That’s changed in the playoffs, where Andersen has shouldered the load, which has included two double-overtime games (Game 4 against the Islanders and Game 2 against the Rangers).

Related: Filip Chytil likely out for Rangers in Game 5 for Rangers, but returns to ice

Frederik Andersen likely Hurricanes starter against Rangers in Game 5

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Carolina Hurricanes
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Kochetkov started Game 3 in Raleigh against the Rangers and allowed three goals on 25 shots in a game the Rangers won in overtime 3-2. Brind’Amour said at the time that he believed Andersen needed a rest after their 2OT loss two nights before in New York.

“We were just debating giving him that little rest,” Brind’Amour explained after Carolina’s win in Game 4. “We always planned to have him come back and play anyway.”

Andersen returned in the must-win Game 4 and made 22 saves. Staked to leads of 2-0 and 3-1, Andersen bent but didn’t break before teammate Brady Skjei scored the decisive goal late in the third period.

To Andersen’s credit, he didn’t fold after surrendering a bad goal that tied the game early in the third period. Alexis Lafreniere banked one in off Andersen’s back despite being behind the goal line after the Carolina goalie lost where he was by the post.

“The one thing about Freddie that we know is that he’s very even keel. He never gets too high or too low. He’s a pro,” Brind’Amour said postgame. “You’d love to have that one back, but then he made a great save on the rush that came in and the guy knocked it out of the air and he had to be there. It’s always about the next play, the next shift and you have to be able to deal with that and he does.”

Andersen has an underwhelming .897 save percentage in these playoffs, though his 2.63 goals-against average is not bad. He’s allowed three goals or more in six of eight games, including five in a row.

He hasn’t had a playoff save percentage under .922 since 2018, when he played seven games for the Toronto Maple Leafs (.896).

Andersen is Carolina’s No. 1 goalie. But they had quite a bit of success with Kochetkov this season, as well. It’d appear either is a worthy candidate to start another must-win in Game 5.

“It doesn’t really matter which guy’s in there,” Hurricanes forward Jordan Martinook told the Raleigh News and Observer. “We have full faith in whichever one is between the pipes and you look at ‘Kooch,’ his Game 3 was pretty incredible and Freddie made some big stops last night, big ones at key moments. I feel like that’s kind of what you need in those games.”

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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