The Canes were 3-6-4 in early November. They had the promise, but had a hard time closing out games, and along with that, they couldn’t get solid goaltending. Questions about both Cam Ward and Eddie Lack were swirling, and it was thought that the Hurricanes should look to acquire someone like Fleury or Bishop. That was until Ward kicked into another gear all together like a flick of a switch.
Ward has undisputedly been the best goaltender in the NHL since November 1st. With his .939 SV% and 1.67 GAA going into last night’s matchup against Tampa Bay, he ranked above everyone else in both categories over the last month (with a minimum 6 starts). Those numbers were only enhanced by his 30 save shutout performance in the 1-0 victory over the Lightning last night. If it wasn’t for an unlucky bounce off Teravainen’s skate with 31 seconds remaining in regulation while facing Boston, he’d be looking at back-to-back shutouts.
Ward’s strong play has led to a 7-4-1 month, including a five-game winning streak, that now leaves them with a 10-10-5 record. It is a five point improvement from last season through 25 games. For the past four games and two periods, they have been without Jordan Staal, who they lost due to a concussion suffered early in the 3-2 comeback victory against Florida on November 27th. If he had been in the lineup, I believe they would’ve won at least one of their one goal losses in the past week. They are six points behind the first wild card team, Philadelphia, with two games in hand. They are four points in back of the last wild card spot held by Washington, but they have two games in hand on the Hurricanes.
After last night’s shutout, Ward was asked what the reason was for his success. “Honestly, I’m just having fun,” was his reply. Well, “having fun” is definitely working for him. This is truthfully the best I have ever seen him play during his entire career. That includes his Conne Smythe run leading to the Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup Championship in 2006.