The Carolina Hurricanes made it to the Eastern Conference Final last season in large part because of their goaltending. Petr Mrázek and Curtis McElhinney were an effective tandem, feeding off of each other and picking each other up. McElhinney is gone, Mrázek is the presumed number one and James Reimer is the presumed backup.
The Book on Reimer
Reimer, 31, has had a nine-year NHL career that has seen him average a shade more than 37 games per season. Most of his career was with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had eight appearances with the San Jose Sharks and most recently was with the Florida Panthers.
His numbers are not too shabby, with a career 2.81 goals against average (GAA) and a .913 career save percentage (SV%). He has appeared in eight playoff games with similar numbers. All in all, he has been a serviceable backup goaltender, not unlike McElhinney.
Reimer Looking Forward
Some of my media colleagues and I caught up with Reimer at the Hurricanes’ annual pre-training camp media day. I got one-on-one with him and came away from our conversation feeling good how he is approaching the season.
When asked what he is looking forward to most about the upcoming season with the Hurricanes, Reimer said, “Just getting going I think, just being part of the team. So much excitement last year and so many big steps for the team. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the fans and just getting the good times rolling again.”
The good times did roll last season for the Hurricanes and their fans, from the postgame victory celebration “Storm Surges” to wearing the nickname “Jerks” with pride. It was a season of excitement that had not been felt in the team’s home venue — Raleigh’s PNC Arena in a decade.
Reimer Doing Things the Right Way
Responding as to what it is about the Hurricanes that makes him want to play with the team, Reimer said, “I think it’s just the culture. You want to be the best at your craft and all that good stuff. But, you want to do it the right way. I think that the culture they’ve created here between the coaching staff and the leadership on the team means we do things the right way.” Reimer added:
Not to be a cliché, obviously, but the results kind of take care of themselves. It’s exciting when you can play the right way every game and every day. There’s a structure to it and it makes things a little easier and more fun.
That culture between the Hurricanes coaching staff and the leadership on the team may hit a bump in the road with team captain Justin Williams taking a break from the game. Williams was head coach Rod Brind’Amour’s go-to guy who shared the same passion for hard-work and never giving up last season. Who will pick up that mantle this season has yet to be determined.
Reimer on Splitting Time with Mrázek
Mrázek is the presumed starting goaltender for the Hurricanes, but, the season could be similar to last year’s situation with McElhinney. Reimer may split time with Mrázek and be called upon to appear in his usual 37 or so games.
On being in a platoon situation, Reimer said, “It’s nice when you know that there are games available. Every goalie wants to play. You don’t grow up wanting to sit on the bench, right? It’s nice when you can play and be a part of the team and contribute to the team’s success.”
Contributing to the team’s success will mean being patient while Mrázek is getting starts and being ready to go when it’s his turn. Part of McElhinney’s success working in tandem with Mrázek last season was his readiness when called upon. Reimer will have to be patient but be ready. Reimer also said,
You try not to put too much pressure on yourself. I feel like I’ve had a good summer and I’m confident in my abilities and what I can do. When it comes down to camp it’s just playing the game, just stopping the puck
….You just focus, work hard and have some fun.
Reimer will be given plenty of opportunity to work hard in Brind’Amour’s system. Having fun was a hallmark of this team last season. The big question will be the ability to focus and stay ready.
Reimer on the “D”
I asked Reimer his thoughts about the defense that will be playing in front of him. He said, “I think this defense moves the puck well and they skate well and they’ve got some good size. It’s a really good mix. I think once we get into a rhythm and start to read off each other, it’ll be really good. They work hard and they care. For me, that’s the biggest thing.
One of the Hurricanes’ defensemen will be Jake Gardiner, recently acquired from the Maple Leafs. That synergy should help make Reimer comfortable as he acclimates to his new team.
The Hurricanes’ expectations are huge. They went deep into the playoffs last season with a pair of goaltenders that played off one another very well. Can Mrázek and Reimer duplicate and even improve upon that effort? Reimer has the right stuff and a great attitude. As he says, it should be fun.