Curtis McElhinney was in a Calgary Flames uniform for 50 games this season before he made even two relief appearances off the bench for head coach Brent Sutter. Seven games into his Ducks career, McElhinney has already replaced Jonas Hiller twice in the middle of a game.
That’s just one of the adjustments the 26-year-old goaltender has had to make in Anaheim.
“It’s always tough to go in the middle of games, but there wasn’t a lot
of shots that went in there,” he said of Friday night’s 5-4 overtime victory over the New York Islanders. “The guys kind of took over in
the third period, especially.”
McElhinney stopped 13 of 14 shots Friday, and looked sharper than he did in his debut. He inherited a 3-0, second-period deficit against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 9, just his second game since Calgary traded him to Anaheim. The Ducks rallied back to within 3-2, but McElhinney allowed two goals late in the third period to seal the defeat.
For McElhinney, Friday’s performance was certainly validating in the eyes of head coach Randy Carlyle.
“Young goalies, if you want to call them ‘backup goalies’ in our situation, have got to come in and provide you with that spark, and he was able to do that,” Carlyle said. “Jonas has played a lot of hockey for our hockey club and been probably our MVP in a lot of ways. I just didn’t feel the puck was being handled properly. The puck was going through.
“You don’t base (the decision to switch goalies) on the one player, you base it on the other 19 guys that are in the room.”
That approach is different from Sutter’s, but not that of Mike Keenan, the Flames’ coach in 2007-08 and 2008-09. McElhinney was a midgame replacement in six of his 15 appearances in 2008-09 (including playoffs), and three of his five appearances in 2007-08.
“Every coach is different – some feel that they need a spark – and it worked out last night,” he said.