Cam Ward is having a great November. At times he has been as brilliant as ever between the pipes. Between his outstanding play and that of the rest of his defenders, the Carolina Hurricanes are leading the NHL in penalty kill percentage. Clearly, they are not sweating the penalty box.
Ward has been consistent when faced with shorthanded situations as well as with even-strength rushes. Against the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night, Ward made this outrageous save on Alex Galchenyuk:
In the same game, which the ‘Canes lost 2-1, ending their five-game winning streak, Ward made multiple highlight-reel save, like this one against Habs’ Andrei Markov:
Ward has proven invaluable to the Hurricanes, especially in November, wherein he has gone 6-2-2. His play has been so stout that he was awarded the NHL’s second star for his play a week ago.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) November 21, 2016
Ward and Defense Killing It
According to the team preview of Saturday’s contest against the Ottawa Senators, “In their last 11 games, Carolina has killed off all 24 penalties it has faced. The Hurricanes are ranked first in the league in penalty kill percentage (92.2%), killing off 47-of-51 penalties this season. Carolina is also ranked first in the league in road penalty kill percentage (94.1%), allowing just two power play goals in 34 shorthanded situations.”
So the ‘Canes like road kill as much as they do killing penalties at home. These stats are vitally important to a team that struggled mightily in October, and as is their custom, put themselves behind the eight ball relative to other teams’ point accumulation early on. If the Hurricanes ever figure out how to start seasons in a positive manner, their hope of making the playoffs will likely stand a more realistic chance.
The Hurricanes' penalty kill has been incredible. Perfect this month (9 games), first in the NHL & only 4 PPG's against all year. @NHLCanes
— Steve Mears (@MearsyNHL) November 22, 2016
If the ‘Canes were not killing off penalties with such success, they would surely be in eighth place in the Metropolitan Division instead of in seventh. That’s not a very good assertion, but the fact is that the one thing that is keeping the Hurricanes even sniffing the playoffs even this early in the season is their success in killing off penalties.
A great website for looking at where teams stand in relation to each other in the NHL regarding various statistics is www.sportingcharts.com. A quick look shows that the ‘Canes have allowed only four power play goals this season, on 51 penalty kills for a kill percentage of 92.2. The St. Louis Blues are in second place with a percentage of 88.1, having allowed 10 goals, but on far more penalties taken at 84. Not only are the Hurricanes killing penalties at an incredible clip, but they are staying out of the penalty box, too, a testament to disciplined play which head coach Bill Peters emphasizes often.
Ward started the season a bit on the rough side, even causing me to write that GM Ron Francis may need to pull a goalie out of his bag of tricks. But, he has settled into a nice groove and as long as he and the Hurricanes can continue to kill penalties at the current rate, they will be in more games than not. And that is a good building block for climbing up the standings as the season progresses.