Nobody was super worried, since Carolina has been on a rampage lately and have begun to play a lot less disappointingly. While replacement goaltender Justin Peters was holding it down for the Hurricanes, it’s still a better plan to have your highly paid starter back where he belongs. With a defense that has been back to form and an offense performing well in the clutch, Monday night against Boston gave fans high hopes.
Giving up a 4-1 loss and snapping the home ice points streak was not how the Hurricanes wanted this anecdote to end.
Hockey fans being a somewhat fickle and judgmental bunch, the blame gun was immediately pointed at Ward. This is somewhat understandable, since he was the new thing that came in after a winning streak, and the team returned to their barfy form from October. So if the team goes back to being awful when Ward returned to the net — it must be Ward’s fault.
This highly specious reasoning is not only wrong, it makes people who say it sound idiotic. There is absolutely no way a goaltender has any fault in causing 14 giveaways or going 0-for-4 on the power play. The things that hurt the Hurricanes the most happened 178 feet away from Ward. Find a goaltender who can have any effect on what his team does on the other side of the ice, and you have found a lie — because it is impossible.
Critics have a point when talking about Carl Soderberg‘s slapshot goal. Ward could have done a million things better to prevent that. The other two goals on his watch were beyond control. Specifically the atrocity that was the Johnny Boychuk goal that was made possible by blatant goaltender interference by — who else — Milan Lucic. Ward is without blame for three of four goals.
Had Jiri Tlusty not hooked Zdeno Chara obviously enough to be seen from space, Boston wouldn’t have even had a power play 1:29 in against a struggling Carolina penalty kill. Tlusty took a stupid penalty, giving the opportunity for Reilly Smith to break the seal. Even on the Soderberg goal, Ward was completely screened by Brett Bellemore so much so he apologized after the goal.
Carolina simply returned to old, bad habits which should have been left in October with the deep fryers from the NC State Fair. Looking like a pack of individuals instead of a team while the Bruins execute textbook tape-to-tape passes will not win hockey games. The fluid, calculated play that was present in the near-perfect homestand was gone.
Arguing over the starting goaltender when the rest of the team runs the dump-and-chase offense is not only counter-productive, but it’s insulting to everyone. Put last week’s team on the ice, and Ward will be the hero once again.