Carolina Hurricanes’ Cam Ward: Can He Keep It Up?
Cam Ward is playing phenomenal for the Carolina Hurricanes so far this November proving a lot of doubters wrong.
The Carolina Hurricanes record this month is 5-2-2 and a large part of that is the play of Cam Ward in net. Ward has cultivated a lot of detractors in his time with the team, and not without good reason. His play the last few years left much to be desired. Here, and here, and here all detail how Ward’s play keeps dragging the team down again and again. But now, well now Ward is one of the major reasons behind the team’s resurgence this month. Is Cam Ward the real deal or is this run of excellent play all an illusion.
The Tale of Two Wards
The play between October Cam Ward and November Cam Ward this year is night and day. We could write two more paragraphs looking at the difference in the two months, but we’ll save you the reading time and just get to the stats instead. All data sourced from Corsica and adjusted for Score and Venue and 5v5.
- LDSV%=Low Danger Save Percentage. Ward’s ability to stop shots that have a small chance of scoring
- MDSV%=Medium Danger Save Percentage. See above just this time the shots have a little higher chance of going in.
- HDSV%= High Danger Save Percentage. These are shots that have a very high chance of turning into goals
- xGA60=expected goals against per 60 minutes. Takes into account the quality of shots against Ward and predicts how many of them should be goals.
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- GSAA=Goals Saved Above Average. Here is a good link describing it in detail but lower is bad and higher better.
As the table shows, Cam Ward’s performance this month is strikingly better than the last in almost every single metric. The only stat that takes a dip is his High Danger SV%, but the gains he’s made in the others more than makes up for that. Especially take note of the large increase in MDSV% and even LDSV%. Those two categories make up the majority of shots any goaltender faces so high percentages in those go a long way to improving performance.
Why the difference?
Cam Ward’s stat line of .941 SV% for the month of November places him among the league’s elite goaltenders. But what changed between October and November? A lot of it was the team in front of him who has had a lot to do with his improved play this month. Just take a look at the difference in shot quality Ward faced in October as opposed to November. The percentages are the percentages of total shots he faced 5v5.
The Carolina Hurricanes’ Defense this month forced opposing teams into taking a lot more low percentage shots than last month. Almost half of all shots Cam Ward faced this month are of the low danger variety. With the emergence of Matt Tennyson to solidify the Hurricanes’ bottom pairing, these rates should stay about the same given the quality of the rest of the Hurricane’s defense. Still, Cam Ward has done his share as well when it come to keeping the puck out of the net and seems to see the puck better and approach it at better angles.
Is It Sustainable?
No Cam Ward will not keep up a .941 SV% for the rest of the year. But given the improvement of the Hurricanes’ defense, the drop shouldn’t be as steep as expected. Can the Hurricanes maintain the same quality of play out on the road? They play only 3 of their next 12 at home against a lot of teams currently in the playoffs. If so, then Ward’s SV% could settle around the .917 range which would be more than enough to allow the Canes to challenge for a playoff spot. Ward alone will not be good enough to get the Hurricanes to the playoffs, but he might be able to play well enough to not be the reason that the team misses.