It is time for some plain talk about the Carolina Hurricanes. Unless they find a way to solve their problems at the goaltender position, the ‘Canes will not make the playoffs. Neither Cam Ward nor Eddie Lack is showing that they have what it takes to put the team on their back and carry them to the playoffs.
Ward has had a wonderful career in Raleigh and is genuinely a well-liked person among the Hurricanes faithful. He has the distinction of having carried the team on his back and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2006. He has shown that, at times, he can be brilliant. But an accurate assessment of his play right now is average at best.
So far this season, Ward has struggled and his current stats reflect that struggle. He has allowed 14 goals in four starts and is sporting a 3.51 goals against average and a .872 save percentage.
These are similar stats to his start last season, which, to his credit, he turned around. Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis and head coach Bill Peters will both recite that Ward had a very good second half of the season, which is true, but the question lingers as to how many very good seasons Ward have left. He may have silenced the naysayers a bit last Friday night when he stood on his head and made saves like these against the New York Rangers:
I truly like Ward — I just don’t know if he can provide the consistency that the ‘Canes need over a long season to lead them into the playoffs. I’d love to be wrong in that assessment. Ward has been a great part of the team for a long time. A great season by him would be fantastic.
On the other hand, I have written in the past that I do not think Eddie Lack is or should be considered a starting goaltender. Some would argue that he does not get to play enough to develop a consistent rhythm. In my opinion, objectively speaking, I do not see in him the fire, the grit or the determination of a champion.
In three starts this season he has allowed 12 goals, has a 4.00 goals against average and a .857 save percentage. As with Ward’s stats, these are not the kind of numbers that inspire confidence between the pipes.
I like Lack, too, and he seems to be a great teammate in and out of the dressing room. He genuinely wants to win, and there may be some merit to the lack of consistent playing time being his Achilles heel. But Peters said he is planning to rotate Ward and Lack, which means there will not likely be many opportunities for Lack to string together enough starts to give him the sense of rhythm he needs to shine.
Francis has built his defense with great young talent. Next he should look to finding a Matt Murray-type young goalie on which to build a playoff-contending team.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.