Cam Ward is a tough goalie to figure out. He is paid as if he is one of the league’s elite goaltenders, but his career numbers show that he isn’t. He is an above average goalie who is very streaky and I’m sure most of us know that. Goaltender performance is hard to predict but what makes Ward such a strange goalie is that he can go from playing like John Grahame to Tomas Vokoun in the span of a season, and we’ve seen that first hand this year. We all know that Ward is streaky and that he’s played great for the last two months but what you may have not known is that this current hot streak is on is one of the best of his career.
Find out more after the jump
In the past, I examined how Ward goes through highs and lows and that was during the final stages of his cold streak that lasted for most of November and December but ever since then, he has turned it around. Ever since the calendar turned 2012, Ward has save percentage of .938, has been quality in 14 out of 18 starts and has been forced to stop 30+ shots in 10 of those games. He’s been one of the main reasons why the Canes are winning more games now. The question is how does this current hot streak compare with the other runs he had over his career?
Ward was great for all of last season but the run he’s on right now is the best he’s played since the late half of the 2009-10 season when he came back from an injury. This hot streak began around the time of the game against the Maple Leafs on December 29, when his save percentage was .898. Twenty games later, Ward’s save percentage has jumped to .931 and that’s mainly because he’s been standing on his head for the last two months. The strange thing about this hot streak is that it came right after he was playing some of his worst hockey in years. For most of November and December, Ward was not playing up to standard and it is evident in his .891 save percentage during that time. He hasn’t played that bad since 2005-06. How does he respond? Only by playing some of the best hockey of his career.
To illustrate how streaky Ward is, I created a graph showing his career save percentage going by rolling 20 game averages.
Ward has always had defined highs and lows, something I determined earlier but it seems that they are getting more extreme as his career goes on. You can see that he wasn’t that good in his first couple of years (during the regular season, of course) but he got better as time went on. The problem is that for every 20 games that Ward stands on his head, he has 20 games where it seems like he can’t stop a beach ball. That reached a new high this year and I have to wonder if it’s a product of him playing too many games.
Right now, he is in the middle of a huge hot streak and it’s very possible that he could have topped his previous high of .932 if he didn’t get hurt. With how unpredictable goalies are, it is really hard to guess how Ward will perform after this streak. I don’t expect him to remain this good for the rest of the year, but if he can play more like he did last season then I would be perfectly fine with that. That’s the one year where he was consistently good and anything is better than how he played during November and December.