Ellis making decisions tough for Muller
Posted February 1, 2013
Updated February 2, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — It would be foolish to think that there is a goalie controversy in Carolina. Then again, Dan Ellis has been making a case to usurp incumbent Cam Ward altogether as the Hurricanes’ go-to netminder.
Turning away 33 shots in a 1-0 shutout of the Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa Senators Friday night, Ellis instantly forced Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller into a decision. When asked following the game if Ellis would be in line to start Saturday’s game at Philadelphia, Muller responded, “I don’t know. We’ll see how he’s feeling and make a decision on the plane.”
While many of the Senators' shots Friday were from distance and posed little realistic threat, Ellis did exactly what he was supposed to and prevented rebounds. On the scoring chances that Ottawa did generate, Ellis was sharp.
In fairness, Ellis was the beneficiary of the best team defense the Canes have played all year Friday night. He faced only five shots on Ottawa power plays and made just one save with the Senators pushing short-handed. Regardless, he got it done between the pipes at every turn in every way.
Two of Ellis’ saves went off his facemask. He favored his glove, but was keen with his blocker twice on short-side scoring chances. He didn’t mishandle any pucks when called on to make a play either.
“He looks very confident,” Muller said. “Like any athlete in pro sports, when you get an opportunity, you have to advantage of it.”
You can blame the slow start for Ward on rust and say, ‘he’ll find it,’ but the season is not that long.
After all, Ellis is literally in midseason form having played 18 games with the Charlotte Checkers before the NHL season got going. That’s where he has the advantage physically and mentally.
“I think those games early on playing in the American League gave me a chance to find my own game and stay fresh,” Ellis said. “It’s difficult to catch a moving train kind of. The season starting with no exhibition games, I think those games in Charlotte was a great blessing for me.”
The body of work in the first six games tells the story for the two goaltenders.
Ellis has stopped 85 of 87 shots he has faced in eight periods of play – a .977 save percentage which is good enough for second best in the NHL. Ward meanwhile, has surrendered 15 goals on 108 shots – a .861 save percentage.
In the season-opener against Florida, Ellis came to the relief of Ward after just 20 minutes. He surrendered one in the next 40. In his first start, a road challenge at Buffalo, the 32-year-old Ellis stopped 40 of 41 shots.
The 28-year-old Ward has given up four goals in three of his four starts. He gave up three in his other.
No matter who starts Saturday, you can bet Ellis will be getting more nods from Muller so long as he has the hot hand.