Canes need vintage Ward to make another Cup run
Posted April 14, 2009
For the first time in a long time, a team can say with a straight face that it might have an advantage at the goalie position going head-to-head with the New Jersey Devils. That's because as the Carolina Hurricanes prepare to take on the Devils and the NHL's all-time winningest goaltender in Martin Brodeur, Paul Maurice's team can look inside its own net at Cam Ward.
It's been well documented that Ward is having a tremendous season. His 68 regular season starts, including 28 in a row during the season's final months, spoke to his durability. The diminutive netminder's six shutouts and 2.44 goals against average per game, speak to his talent.
Canes fans saw just how important a goalie can be to a Stanley Cup run when Ward led Carolina to a championship in 2006. It will likely take a similar effort this time around to give the Canes a shot at a second ring in four years.
"You know it as well as I do, goaltending is going to be huge," Rod Brind'Amour said Tuesday afternoon. "If [Ward] doesn't play well, we might as well pack our bags now - we know that. If he plays well, and we play well, then we're gonna have a great chance to win."
One thing that should help the 6-foot-1 goaltender's cause is the fact that he's been to the playoffs before, though under very different circumstances. In 2006, Ward, then a rookie, replaced a struggling Martin Gerber after the Canes went down two games to none in their first-round series against Montreal . This time, he is the team's entrenched starter - one with past experience and successes under his belt.
"For a goaltender, there's probably a little more confidence that goes with it - he's been through the entire thing," head coach Paul Maurice said before the team departed for New Jersey. "When you win the award at the end for the most valuable player that's real important."
Ward meanwhile, has appreciated what the team has done to make his life easier between the posts.
"We've kind of been known...to be a little bit run and gun before coach Maurice came in," Ward said. "One of the things that he first addressed was the defensive zone, and as a goaltender, that's good news for me. It makes my life a lot easier out there and the guys have really beared down this last second half of the year and played much better defensively."
Cam Ward has tallied five of his six shutouts on the season since the change was made from Peter Laviolette to Maurice at the head coaching position.
Now, Ward's teammates and fans are hoping to see a few more scoreless nights for the Canes' opponents in the coming weeks.