Canes 'Ward' off the competition
Posted May 4, 2009
It's starting to feel a lot like 2006.
Think about it: the Hurricanes are engineering one playoff comeback after another, anchored by the stellar play of Cam Ward in goal.
Like Yogi Berra once said, It's deja vu all over again.
Cam Ward came of age in the 2006 playoffs. Forced into action due to Martin Gerber's sickness, Ward took the reigns and guided his team to a Stanley Cup.
But for the following two seasons, Ward's play was inconsistent. At times we saw flashes of his Stanley Cup brilliance, while at other times we saw him give up the kinds of goals that leave you scratching your head.
At the time, it was easy to shrug off Ward's inconsistency as the inevitable side-effect of growing pains. After all, he won the Cup at the ripe old age of 22.
But it was equally easy to wonder when Ward would regain the form he found in the post-season of 2006, and if he would ever maintain that form on a regular basis.
Well, he's there now.
Without Ward, the Hurricanes would never have made the post-season.
Without Ward's play against New Jersey - a series in which he went head-to-head with the legendary Martin Brodeur and gave no quarter - the Canes would never have advanced to the second round.
And without Ward's play in Game 2 against Boston (his fourth career playoff shutout), the Canes might well be down two games in this series.
Looking back, it's clear now that one of the most important moves Paul Maurice made upon taking over as head coach was to make Ward his everyday (and we mean EVERY day) goalie.
Ward had been splitting time in goal with Michael Leighton. But when Maurice showed confidence in him, Ward's play took off.
Ward himself likes to say that he earned his playing time, and of that there is no doubt. But he also admits that he now has the peace of mind to know that a mistake here or there will not cost him playing time.
The result is a goaltender playing as well as anyone in the NHL. And this time it feels like it's for good.