EL SEGUNDO, Calif – In some ways, Eddie Lack is a starting goaltender in a backup netminder’s role.
He didn’t play that great in the postseason, but the playoffs are a team effort, even if goaltending tends to get magnified. Lack posted a 3.03 goal-against average and .886 save percentage in a six-game loss to the Calgary Flames.
Still he doesn’t feel that’s indicative of the type of goaltender he is.
“I really felt like I proved I can play in this league and I can play a lot,” Lack, now with the Carolina Hurricanes said. “It’s going to be important for me to keep working hard and eventually my chance is going to come.”
Unfortunately for Lack – who became a cult hero in Vancouver with his unexpectedly solid play and love of tacos – that time doesn’t seem to be this season. He’s backing up Carolina Hurricanes starter Cam Ward and played just one game in 2015-16.
But that hasn’t stopped the 27-year-old Lack from continuing his dogged work to one day become the leading goaltender for an NHL team.
During the summer he signed a two-year $5.5 million contract extension with the Carolina Hurricanes, which kicks in at the start of 2016-17. Ward is a pending unrestricted free agent.
The 6-foot-4, 187-pound Swede pushed himself for over an hour with a small practice group at the Toyotas Sports Center, after the Hurricanes arrived in the Los Angeles area at around 2 a.m. following a win at the Colorado Avalanche.
His body drenched in sweat, his chest still heaving from practice, Lack chugged on a water bottle while he talked with us about several topics, from tacos to former Canucks coach John Tortorella to his fascinating Roberto Luongo homage on his goaltender mask.
Q. Looks the team ordered some In-N-Out Burger today. Guess that means no taco truck for you here in LA?
LACK: We actually kind of talked about how we’re going to try to pick out the 10 best spots to get tacos on the road. Here it’s definitely one place where I thought it would get it, but I’ve been tired of it lately to be honest. It has been a lot lately.
What is your favorite type of taco?
Ground beef for sure.
How do you make these things healthy? They taste good, but they’re not exactly nutritious.
I’m gluten free so I try to do corn tortillas instead of wheat and stuff like that. The more vegetables and greens you get on a taco the better it is.
How many times do you eat tacos per-week?
The Swedes on the team, we gather at my place at least once a week to get together and cook a little bit. Tacos are on the top of the list. I have ground beef, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and tomato.
They serve beer at Taco Bell now. Your thoughts?
I usually don’t go a lot to Taco Bell to be honest.
You have a sponsorship with a local taco place?
Yeah, yeah, yeah … Gonza! I’m going to hook the boys up with some of their tacos so they’re excited about it too.
So now that we’ve gotten tacos out of the way, you were really well liked in Vancouver. I’d imagine it was tough leaving a place where you were such a fan favorite?
I mean, there’s no secret that I really liked it there. But I feel like I had a good start here and my teammates are great. We’re getting along well, so it has been good so far.
To be honest, I’m not sure why (I was so popular in Vancouver). I would think it’s because people think I’m a genuine person and I really cared about the city and the team, but that’s just who I am and how I’m going to be wherever I go.
Your one game in Carolina wasn’t great. How long is it going to take to start feeling comfortable with the Hurricanes?
It takes a little bit with a new team and everything. Hopefully I get a game here soon too, and be able to get in a little bit of a groove too. Sometimes it’s kind of tough when you play once every two weeks, and you’re practicing and practicing. You don’t really get into that game groove, so hopefully that’s going to come soon.
Do you think you’ve done enough in your career to be a starting goaltender?
Yeah, especially down the stretch last year when I played 25 or 26 games or something like that. I really felt like I proved I can play in this league and I can play a lot. It’s going to be important for me to keep working hard and eventually my chance is going to come.
The playoffs weren’t wonderful for you last year. How do you try to move past that lackluster performance?
I got that question before and honestly it’s maybe one or two goals I want back from that playoffs and that was in the last game. Obviously I didn’t get to play after that, so I kind of felt like that was a little unfair because especially the first three games I felt I played at a higher level and obviously the last game didn’t go as planned but the first three I was pretty happy with actually.
John Tortorella is returning to the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets as their head coach. Your thoughts? (Lack played for Tortorella in Vancouver during the 2013-14 season)
I’m going to be watching their game (Thursday), that’s for sure. I mean, for that team too, they lost seven in a row? He’s definitely going to come in there with a different attitude and shake things up a little bit. It’s going to be good for them.
What was it like playing for him as a goaltender?
You know, I loved playing for Torts. He always treated me well and with respect.
Does he get an unfair rap. People see him as this guy who yells and screams a lot. Is he really like that?
Eh (laughs), sometimes, I mean, but he has a different personality in the media than he does for most of the players who played for him.
Goaltenders seem to hate 3-on-3 OT. Do you love it? Do you hate it? What do you think?
We’re 1-0 right now so I have to love it, right? It’s really entertaining and it’s going to be entertaining for the fans. Anything that can make the game more entertaining, I’m all for it.
Another change for this year is video review for goaltender interference. Seems like that would help a goaltender?
I’ve always been the guy who plays a little deeper in my crease. I haven’t had a lot of those 50/50 situations before. If they can have an extra thing to get one more right call per-game I’m all for it.
You have a good Twitter game. How does it compare to Roberto Luongo’s? Did he teach you his tricks?
Luongo is definitely in a class of his own. I’m way behind there. I’m just trying to be myself there too and have some fun with it along the way.
He seems to be able to deflect criticism pretty well. How did that help you as far as learning to be a pro?
I’m always going to be grateful for him. My first training camp (with Vancouver) we were roommates and stuff like that. He took me to breakfast and made me feel welcome with the team and that means a lot. Obviously we had a special relationship off the ice too. Just loved playing with him.
What was his reaction when he found out about your new mask, featuring his face?
I think until he saw it last week I don’t think he believed it.
It’s pretty funny …
Yeah, you know like, it’s kind of a salute. He took me in at the beginning of my career, so yeah, it’s fun.
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