May 28, 2009
As soon as Simeon Varlamov(notes) propelled the Washington Capitals into the Eastern Conference semifinals, the comparisons to the 2006 version of Cam Ward(notes) began: A rookie goaltender, replacing the starter in the playoffs, leading his team to a Stanley Cup. Well, things didn't quite work out that way for "The Amazing Varlamov" against Pittsburgh. Against those same Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals, Ward wished he would have been able to channel his three-year old hot streak.
All four games against Pittsburgh were a nightmare for Ward and every little trivial statistic that Versus and Carolina fans pulled out was shredded by the Penguins.
Ward is undefeated in Game Two's in his career. No more.
Ward has never allowed more than five goals in a playoff game. No more.
Ward has never lost a playoff series. No more.
After valiantly carrying the Hurricanes down the stretch of the regular season and through two Game Seven's against New Jersey and Boston, Ward was overwhelmed by a Pittsburgh offense that capitalized on every opportunity they were given as the Carolina net-minder noted before Game Four:
"You can say all you want about how you are going to shut them down but at the end of the day they are going to get chances just because they are that good."
To be fair, it wasn't all his fault. The defense in front ofWard let him down time after time and despite some outstanding saves, theyfound a way to allow the Penguins with numerous scoring opportunities, most of which they made Carolina pay for.
Or Maxime Talbot catching the Hurricanes in a bad line change.
Finally, it might have been a case of bad luck and poor out-fielding, but Talbot's goal in Game Four followed by Ward's body language, effectively ended the series at that moment.
Hopefully, Ward's gaffe doesn't overshadow his performance in the first two rounds and his fleeting moments in the Conference Finals. He's a good goaltender who in the end, was left to attempt to steal every game of the series.
Ward's plenty young with a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe already under his belt and his numbers have improved every year of his career. The next question now becomes how influenced was Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman by Ward's performance in the regular season and the playoffs. Is it enough to gain consideration for Team Canada's Olympic training camp set to take place this summer?