Happy Feet 3: The Goalie Adventures of Cam & Eddie
The fan base thinks Coach Bill Peters stuck his foot in his mouth last week talking about his goalie.
Coach Bill Peters could care less what we think.
When asked if Ward, coming off a win, would be the starting goalie for the team’s next game following the victory against the Rangers for the home opener, he said this in his post-game media scrum:
“… Yes. These are easy questions. Win and you stay in right now.”
Ward went on to give up four goals in a loss to Philadelphia, and then was named starter for last night’s match in Ottawa. #CaniacNation probably overreacted.
Warning: I need you to take a deep breath before you continue. You may need the latest #PuckingSunshine before I ruin or tarnish the narrative most fans believe: Cam Ward is bad, Eddie Lack is better; Cam isn’t held to the same standard as Eddie.
A look at the current goalie results
Bottom line, goaltending has not been good, proving lots of experts right to begin the season. Ben Pope of Today’s Slapshot had a nice breakdown of what went wrong in the first six games. I promise not to go too in-depth with numbers, but let’s get a few facts about the current season out of the way. As of Wednesday, November 1:
- Cam Ward has started six (6) games (66% of games played), including the last four games.
- The team has earned four (4) of 12 points, .333%, in games Ward has started. Three (3) of the four (4) points came in his last three (3) starts.
- Eddie Lack has started three (3) games (33% of games played).
- The team has earned three (3) of six (6) points, .500%, in games Lack has started.
- Both goalies have failed to deliver back-to-back .900 save percentage performances in consecutive starts.
- Lack was not given a start in a game following a sub-.900% performance. Ward has twice in the last four games.
Since I don’t have the benefit of attending practice regularly I presume Peters and Coach David Marcoux are seeing something out of these two goalies the rest of us aren’t. I reserve my right from providing further comment on that matter as the flames from the hot taeks are tall enough without my help.
Looking Back at the goalies in 2015-16
The ‘Starting Goalie’ situation may fall in line with Peter’s comment from last Friday, but it is pretty consistent from what we saw that season:
- Ward started 51 games, 62% of the Regular Season.
- Lack started 31 games, 38% of the Regular Season.
Without question Ward is still viewed as the starter by the coaching staff. If you’re results oriented like me, it makes sense things worked out that way in 2015-16. Time to shoot down some narratives, #ForNow:
- The team earned 57 of 102 points in the standing when Ward started (.558 point percentage)*.
- The team earned 29 of 62 points when Lack stated (.467 point percentage).
- The second Eastern Conference Wild Card team (Detroit) has a .567 point percentage.
Note*: Do you remember that crazy December game against Dallas before the team turned their season around? Ward started, but was pulled after allowing 4 goals in the first period. Canes made their comeback but fell in OT where Lack earned the OTL.
The leaky case for Cam Ward as Canes #1 goalie
Ward performed better looking at last season from afar. That’s doesn’t say a whole lot given his below league average number and the team’s 10th place finish in the conference. But he does have a few positives going for him.
Ward secured the only three-game winning streak from 1/8 to 1/12/2016 against Columbus in a back-to-back, home-and-home situation and Pittsburgh. He only allowed four (4) or more goals in eight (8) of his 51 starts, most before the team improved their play in mid-December. He won 45% of his starts, which was better than Lack’s 38%.
Ward is the best skating goaltender the team has at the moment. His footwork allows him to be more aggressive on first-shot opportunities. He uses his superior edge work to recover for rebound chances, where he demonstrates his athletic abilities. Unfortunately, this is where he gets into trouble.
Is Cam actually a penguin?
Cam has happy feet. During practices, warm-ups, or the first 10 minutes of a start I want you to watch any goalie’s footwork. When they’re playing to the best of their abilities, goalies move their feet as little as possible. When shifting positions, they use one push to move side-to-side in a fluid motion. Same thing applies when they have to recover to the post.
Cam skates well when he’s able to find a rhythm in his game. He did it around the 12 minute mark of last night’s game in Ottawa. When he doesn’t he turns into Elaine Benes:
You’ve seen it this season and in the past: Ward tends to shift and shuffle his feet constantly. That’s when he gives up too many rebounds, and the defense has difficulty. Tripp Tracy made numerous comments during the broadcast about Cam needing to calm his upper body to control rebounds and absorb pucks. Problem is he can’t do that until he settles his feet. This is where we see the Jekyll & Hyde that is Cam Ward, NHL Goaltender. The divided opinions on his abilities should start and end there.
Oh yeah, then there is the glove side high issue.
The curious case of Eddie Lack
I take full credit and await the future royalty checks for this beauty:
@Section_328 Holding out hope for a call/response chant of “EDDIE EDDIE EDDIE/BORK BORK BORK.”
— Pat Clarke (@PatrickClarke) September 30, 2015
I find Lack to be a lovable person, and yeah I do like his social media presence. It’s nice when and NHL player doesn’t lock their soul and/or emotional brain centers in a vault.
I also like that has started multiple playoff games during the second Obama Administration. Heck, he played well for that John Tortorella coached Vancouver Canucks team in his rookie season. Injuries and the subsequent Roberto Luongo gave him the chance to start 41 games (37 starts) in that 2013-14 season. The following season he shared the crease with anointed starter Ryan Miller before taking the crease late in the year and winning 2-of-3 games regularly from February on to get the Canucks back in play postseason.
Seems as if the key to his success is making a heavier workload. He may not achieve that on this roster given the way last season and October 2016 have gone. And that’s the problem the 328 crew and I have right now: We don’t know what Lack’s ceiling is but we want to find out. He demonstrated what his performance floor is during his start in Philadelphia. But he hasn’t had the opportunities to play his back from a back performance with Ward on the active roster.
Playing against time and current coaching conventions
Last year, Lack started three or more consecutive games on two different occasions. Ward was sidelined with a concussion during his longest stretch. Eddie went on to win 3 of his 5 starts before the All-Star break, played poorly in the return game at Calgary, and he never started more that two-in-a-row the rest of the way.
Before time slips away and there is too much ground to make up, I want to see Eddie start three or more consecutive games, or get guaranteed starts. The five game home stretch starting next week would be a nice chance to work that in. The “win and you’re in” mentality isn’t working in the team’s long term interests. And it’d be nice to know what the current backup is capable of during for a stretch without the fear of sitting should he lose or post a sub .915 save percentage.