North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

The New Dominator

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He wasn’t supposed to dominate the series like he has – not in this, the new NHL. When they changed the rules (everything from the new equipment sizes to the new goalie crease to the elimination of the red line) it was supposed to make the goalie’s life all that much more difficult. It was the NHL’s equivalent of baseball moving the mound back and taking it down a few inches or football relenting and allowing the forward pass. Suddenly you expect that the offence will take over and run up the score.

But Cam Ward is dominating.

Sure, the Oilers have their problems: they don’t shoot on the Powerplay, they’re defensive-minded at times; their star goalie’s season is done.

But Cam Ward has been dominating all throughout the postseason.

He came in as the a replacement for Martin Gerber in game 2 of the opening round against Montreal and since then he has barely left. He led the Canes back to beat the Canadiens in six, then backstopped them past a stingy New Jersey Devils (he started all five games) and past the surging Buffalo Sabres (where he started all but one of the seven games) – now he’s dominating another series, as the Carolina Hurricanes have taken a stranglehold 3-1 series lead against the Edmonton Oilers.

Even in the ‘old NHL’ he wouldn’t have been expected to do this much. He’s a rookie that is playing (at worst) far, far above his head. He is, quite simply, The New Dominator.

Even in game four, when the Oilers had pulled their goalie and where pressing, shooting at every chance (even from bad angles) and playing at the Rextall Centre – the mystical venue where Gretzky, Messier, Coffey and Fuhr led the Oilers to five cups in seven years) he was the dominant player on the ice. He bounced back from letting in four goals in game one (still a win for the Canes) to letting in just three over the next three games.

Sure, it’s nothing that’s going to rewrite the record book: Brodeur had seven shutouts in 2003; Fuhr won 18 games in 1988 and Kipprusoff played over 1600 minutes in 2004 – but for a rookie to be playing at the level that Cam is… well, it’s almost unheard of.

Sure, there have been good rookie goaltenders in the playoffs before: Ron Hextall won the Conn Smythe in 1987, for example. But there hasn’t been a goalie that has constantly shut down their opponents for as long – and as completely – in over 20 years, since the 1986 playoffs: Patrick Roy.

Is Cam Ward the new Roy, or just a flash in the pan like Hextall was? Only time will tell – but if I had to choose, I’d say that Cam will be around for a long, long time.

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Written by M.

June 14, 2006 at 12:53 am

Posted in Hockey, nhl, playoffs

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