Possibly the most underrated NHL goalie, Cam Ward was drafted in 2002 (25th overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes. He is often left out of discussion as one of the top goalies in the league, and that is most certainly a mistake. His stats don’t represent how valuable he is to the Hurricanes. Many people believe Ward was a key component to the Hurricanes Stanley Cup run in 2006, but that was his rookie season where he didn’t get much playing time, however, he still has a ring.
Ward, who was the backup to former NHL goalie John Grahame in his rookie season, played just 28 games in which he didn’t play up to par. Winning just half of the games he appeared in, Ward held a mediocre .882 save percentage and a goals against average of well over 3.50.
The poor performance in his rookie campaign didn’t keep the Hurricanes from giving Ward the bulk of the starts in the following season (2006-2007) where he started 59 games, winning 30. His numbers were still nowhere near where they needed to be acceptable as he sported a sub .900 save percentage and a GAA just below 3.00.
The following season his numbers were still shaky, but every season since then he has boasted a .910 or higher save percentage and has been the backbone of the team. Aside from his rookie season, and a 2009-2010 season in which the Hurricanes struggled and Ward battled injuries, he has recorded 30 or more wins every year.
There’s no doubt, a goaltender’s top priority is keeping the puck out of the net, but from time to time with their team up, they’ll try to put the puck in the net. The other team’s net of course. Eyes light up when a ‘tendy’s counterpart leaves his crease to bring the extra attacker on the ice at the end of the game.
Ward always has the thought in the back of his mind that if the other team dumps the puck behind the net with the empty cage that it’s ok to take a shot. Although Ward didn’t necessarily score “the old fashioned way”, he did get credited with a goal for his team against the New Jersey Devils in late 2011. It was a bizarre scene, the Devils had shot the puck and it deflected off into the corner after hitting Ward’s shoulder. A mistake was made with a Devil miscue at the point, and the puck ended up in the net. Ward was the last Hurricane to touch the puck, so he was credited with the tally. He was the first goalie to put a goal on the board for his team since Chris Mason did it in 2006 for the Nashville Predators.
Ward will probably never win the Vezina trophy, but the Hurricanes will be able to rely on him for years to come with his clutch saves and leadership abilities on and off the ice.
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