Record-Setting Night for Ward, Canes
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“I felt really comfortable,” Ward told the media after the game. “I felt like I was seeing the puck well, and for the most part, I was really happy with my rebound control.”
Thursday marked Ward’s third shutout of the season and the 19th of his career. His season high for shutouts is six, set in 2008-09, five of which came in the calendar year 2009 portion of that season. The shutout earned Ward first star honors in the game and second star honors in the National Hockey League for the night.
“You know you have to be sharp against them because they’re so skilled and talented,” Ward said. “You take a break against them mentally, and it could be in the back of your net.”
Head coach Kirk Muller credited the team’s defense for fishing loose pucks out around the front of the net. Though Boston was credited with 47 shots on goal, Muller said the Canes limited the Bruins to just 12 total scoring opportunities.
Boston put 22 shots on Ward in the first period, seven of which came from defensemen. The Bruins’ D-corps had 14 shots in the game, half of which came in the first period. The Hurricanes tightened up in the second period, limiting the home team to just five shots. Down three goals early in the third period, the Bruins poured on 20 more shots in the final frame as they searched for a way past Ward.
“Certain teams play that way. Their [defensemen] are great at getting shots through, and they take a lot of shots,” Muller said. “What I thought was really good was our defense did a great job at limiting the second and third opportunities around the net against probably the best team in the league for forwards.”
Muller was quick not to take anything away from Ward’s outing.
“Don’t get me wrong, Ward played really well,” he said. “That was one of the best games I’ve seen him play, as far as his focus. He made it look easy, and he made some big saves at the right times.”
With his shutout, Ward closes the book on a stellar season series against Boston that saw him win four games and stop 139 of 144 shots faced (.965 save percentage).
“It’s no secret they’re once again Stanley Cup contenders, and to beat them four times is a compliment to our team,” Ward said. “We’ve got to play every team like it’s the Boston Bruins, because they seem to bring out the best in us.
“When we play like that, we’re capable of beating very good teams.”
The Canes' netminder has played his best hockey of the season in his last 12 starts. When, in that stretch, Ward's worst performance was 21 saves on 24 shots, you know he’s been good. He’s faced 406 shots in those 12 games (an average of 33.8 per game) and stopped 386 of them, a .951 save percentage. In 10 of those 12 starts, Ward has surrendered two goals or less.
“When your goalie has that confidence in his body language and in the way he’s playing, it gives everyone a lot of confidence, and it’s easier to play. It really is,” Muller said. “He seems to have his game in the right state of mind as far as his of his mental approach. The break was probably better for him, even though he was playing well before. He seems to be tracking the puck well right now. Last night, they had good scoring chances, and he made it look easy.”
When he plays like that, he’s going to give us a chance to win every night.”
And with Ward playing so well, it’d be kind of hard to sit him at this point.
Does he go Saturday against Los Angeles? Without hesitation, Muller answered, “Yes.”