Goaltending is not the problem

Since the injury to Cam Ward, the Hurricanes have gone on a bit of a spiral. They've lost six of the nine games he has missed, totaling a record of 3-5-1 during that time. This has led some analysts to believe that Ward's injury is responsible for the Hurricanes recent tailspin when that is anything but true. Ward has started the majority of Carolina's games since 2006, so it is a little odd seeing some different names between the pipes, but both Dan Ellis and Justin Peters have been able to get the job done in his absence. Sure, they don't have his reputation and announcers are never going to say that one of these two goalies can "steal" games for your team, but it's hard to argue with their results thus far.

  Record ESSV% PKSV% PPSV% Total Sv%
Ellis (last 9 games)  1-3-1 0.947 0.85 0.75 0.928
Peters (last 9 games)  2-2-0 0.921 0.875 0.6667 0.908
Peters/Ellis (last 9 games)  3-5-1 0.935 0.861 0.7143 0.919
Ward (entire 2013)  9-6-1 0.917 0.862 0.9333 0.914

Despite their overall records being poor, both Ellis and Peters have given the Hurricanes more than solid goaltending since Ward's injury. In fact, they've been performing at a level that's well above average during even strength play. They've given up a couple of short-handed goals on breakaways as well as a few powerplay goals, which has driven down their overall save percentage, but as a whole, their play has been very strong. There is all this talk about how the Hurricanes "need Ward" to steal games for them when the two goalies they are icing right now are doing more than enough to keep the Hurricanes in games right now. Ellis has been especially good and while I wouldn't expect him to sustain that over a long period of time, he is probably good enough to be at least average (or even above average) for the rest of the season depending on how many games he has to start.

Ward obviously has a big role on the team as one of the leaders, but the Ellis/Peters have been more than adequate filling in for him this season and should not be blamed for the Hurricanes recent struggles. Things might be different if Ellis' leg laceration is serious enough to keep him out for a long period of time, but neither he or Peters has been the problem thus far. The bigger issue has been the play in front of the goaltenders.

Hurricanes Even Strength Stats Since Ward's Injury

GF GA SF SA CF CA CorF CorA
17 17 223 236 119 132 474 436

GF/GA = Goals for/Goals against, SA/SF = Shots for/Shots against, CF/CA = Chances for/Chances against, CorF/CorA = Corsi For/Corsi Against

The spectacular goaltending from Ellis & Peters has kept the Hurricanes goal differential even, but they've been getting outshot and outchanced during five-on-five play. This emphasizes how much help they've been getting from their goaltending during this recent rough spell because things could be a lot worse. Compare Ward's numbers to his replacement's and it's hard to believe that things would be much different even if he was healthy. I know that Ward had a few great starts before his injury, but 3-4 great starts are not indicative of an entire season. Either way, I'm sure most would agree that the play in front of the goaltenders is what needs to change the most for Carolina.

The most interesting thing about their numbers here is that the Canes have been a good possession team, but it isn't resulting in them getting many shots or scoring chances. In past year's, it's been shown that possession leads to shots/scoring chances, so we could see more offense out of this team as long as they continue to generate zone time. However, even with that, the Hurricanes are still among one of the worst teams in the league at suppressing shots during even strength play and their goaltenders have done a pretty good job of keeping them in games despite that.

Yes, the Hurricanes have fallen on tough times with injuries this season and Ward's injury is one of the biggest, but saying that his absence is the cause for the team's struggles is ignoring the facts.

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