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Mike Maniscalco

Making it look easy can be difficult

Posted March 28, 2011
Updated March 29, 2011

Sometimes it is hard to appreciate just how good a player is when you see him night after night. The Carolina Hurricanes fans are in that spot with goaltender Cam Ward. This season, Ward has managed to make the difficult look routine while keeping his team in almost every game in which he has appeared. He has already set career highs in saves, save percentage and minutes played, and he will more than likely shatter his mark for games played in a season.

It would be easy to write something about how at this point of his career he has better numbers than hall of fame goalies Patrick Roy and Grant Fuhr, which he does.

This could be a piece about how Ward should be included as a finalist for the Vezina trophy for his play this season, which he should.

This might be a chance to showcase the improving stats of Cam Ward, showing that he is now among the NHL elite at the position.

But this is about something else, it is about searching for something that isn’t there.

When you watch an athlete perform at a high level every night, the little imperfections seem to be bigger than what they really are. In team sports there are three positions where these flaws are amplified: pitcher in baseball, quarterback in football and goalie in hockey. When those players make a mistake, the outcome is immediate.

Pitcher hangs a curveball; watch it go over the fence.
Quarterback throws to the wrong spot; see it intercepted.
Goalie misplays a puck; observe it deposited into the net.

All those positions depend on help from their teammates, but people don’t say the left fielder's lack of range cost a team a game. I have never heard how a wide receiver isn’t clutch, and most fans don’t sit around and lament that the forward isn’t coming all the way back.

But back to Ward. This season, he has taken his game from a point where he was in the discussion of the league’s top goalies to a point where you can’t have that conversation without him. Ward is 9-1-1 in games where he faces 40 shots or more, and it is not like the Canes are winning those games 7 to 5.

It is the fact that Ward’s outstanding performance has become commonplace. Fans expect to hear Canes TV play-by-play voice John Forslund shout, “Ward says no!!”

The ten terrific saves that keep a game tied are quickly forgotten by the one that gets by.

Hosting a postgame show, I get to hear the complaints that “soft goals” lost the game. There is no arguing that a bad goal can be a back breaker, but when the final score is 2-1, how does that come back to the goalie?

The fact is every night a goal is scored that the netminder will tell you they should have, yet you won’t hear them talk about all the saves they made that kept their team in the game.

I have seen this before with goalie Dominik Hasek. He played in games knowing that if he allowed one goal, his team might not win. That is a lot of added stress on a position that is pressure packed to begin with. Although Hasek won league MVPs, multiple Vezina awards and division titles, those never diffused the comments that he let in one bad goal a game.

It is always the one that goes in that fans complain about. Never mind the fact the team would not have been in position to win without the 30 saves that came before a “bad goal."

Cam Ward already has a Stanley Cup ring and Conn Smythe trophy, maybe that is what brings raised expectations?

He has made huge strides under the tutelage of Tom Barrasso, who is teaching Ward the mental toughness that brought Pittsburgh two titles with Barrasso protecting the net.

In sports today we let the negatives overshadow the positives. In Ward’s case, it should be the positives that outweigh a perceived negative. Moving forward, Ward’s steady improvement will lead Carolina back for a chance at the Cup, and there is nothing negative about that.

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  • StunGunn Mar 30, 2011

    Great article, Mike. I have to agree that Ward is one of the best. He calmly makes monster saves every night. Last night was no exception; just look at the last period, OT and the shoot-out. It was good to see Ward get some help from his teammates on D last night. As fans, it's easy for us to be ctitical; we need to remember and appreciate the elite athletes the Canes have on their roster.

  • Smokin Mar 29, 2011

    The goalie cannot do it all himself. He has to have help on defense, and more importantly, his teammates have to put the puck in the other guy's goal. Ward has done a fantastic job this year. His achievements just serve to show just how bad the Canes scoring has been this year.

  • mike28 Mar 29, 2011

    There is no doubt that Ward is the MVP of the Canes this season. There is no denying that the Canes defense has been subpar most of the season and Ward has kept us in MANY games. At this point, it looks like it is going to take a mirracle for the team to be in the playoffs, but without Ward, the Canes wouldn't be nearly this close to the playoffs. GO CANES!!

  • Cragsdale Mar 29, 2011

    nicely put Mike.

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2:30pm Friday
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5:05pm Sunday
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DUR
 
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TEX 3
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COL 6
CIN 4
Final
MIA 2
PIT 5
10th
CWS 5
TOR 3
 
Final
KAN 2
NYY 4
 
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BOS 4
MIN 6
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PHI 0
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SFG 2
MIL 1
 
2nd
DET 0
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CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Thursday
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ATL
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4:05pm Friday
KAN
CHC
 
7:05pm Friday
COL
PHI
 
7:05pm Friday
TAM
BAL
 
7:10pm Friday
MIA
NYM
 
7:10pm Friday
WAS
CIN
 
8:05pm Friday
BOS
TEX
 
8:10pm Friday
ARI
MIL
 
8:10pm Friday
CWS
HOU
 
8:10pm Friday
TOR
MIN
 
8:15pm Friday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Friday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Friday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Friday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Friday
PIT
SDP
 
10:15pm Friday
ATL
SFG
 
2:10pm Saturday
TOR
MIN
 
3:05pm Saturday
COL
PHI
 
4:05pm Saturday
TAM
BAL
 
4:10pm Saturday
ARI
MIL
 
4:10pm Saturday
CWS
HOU
 
4:10pm Saturday
MIA
NYM
 
4:10pm Saturday
WAS
CIN
 
7:15pm Saturday
BOS
TEX
 
7:15pm Saturday
KAN
CHC
 
7:15pm Saturday
LOS
STL
 
10:05pm Saturday
ATL
SFG
 
10:05pm Saturday
DET
ANA
 
10:05pm Saturday
NYY
OAK
 
10:10pm Saturday
CLE
SEA
 
10:10pm Saturday
PIT
SDP
 
1:10pm Sunday
MIA
NYM
 
1:10pm Sunday
WAS
CIN
 
1:35pm Sunday
COL
PHI
 
1:35pm Sunday
TAM
BAL
 
2:10pm Sunday
ARI
MIL
 
2:10pm Sunday
CWS
HOU
 
2:10pm Sunday
TOR
MIN
 
2:15pm Sunday
LOS
STL
 
2:20pm Sunday
KAN
CHC
 
3:05pm Sunday
BOS
TEX
 
4:05pm Sunday
ATL
SFG
 
4:05pm Sunday
NYY
OAK
 
4:10pm Sunday
CLE
SEA
 
8:05pm Sunday
DET
ANA
 
9:10pm Sunday
PIT
SDP
 
9:00pm Tonight
HOU
GSW
9:00pm Friday
GSW
HOU
 
9:00pm Sunday
HOU
GSW
 
8:00pm Tonight
ANA
CHI
8:00pm Friday
TAM
NYR
 
8:00pm Saturday
CHI
ANA
 
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1:00pm Friday
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1:00pm Friday
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2:30pm Friday
STONYBROOK
NCSTATE
 
2:30pm Friday
TEXAS
OREGONST
 
3:00pm Friday
INDIANA
RADFORD
 
3:30pm Friday
ULLAFAYETE
RICE
 
4:00pm Friday
LEHIGH
LSU
 
6:00pm Friday
CANISIUS
SWMISSOURI
 
6:00pm Friday
CLEMSON
ARIZONAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MERCER
FLORIDAST
 
6:00pm Friday
MOREHEADST
LOUISVILLE
 
6:00pm Friday
VIRGINIA
USC
 
7:00pm Friday
FIU
MIAFLA
 
7:00pm Friday
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7:00pm Friday
MARYLAND
MISS
 
7:00pm Friday
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TCU
 
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7:00pm Friday
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10:00pm Friday
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Final
ROC 8
DUR 2
 
7:05pm Friday
SYR
DUR
 
6:35pm Saturday
SYR
DUR
 
5:05pm Sunday
SYR
DUR