Should Cam Ward Be In Vezina Conversation?

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 15: Cam Ward #30 of Carolina Hurricanes makes a save against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena on March 15, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. Carolina won 1-0. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward is in the process of having a career best regular season.  Not only has he already faced more shots and made more saves than he ever has previously, he's on pace to start more games and play more minutes than he has in any regular season as well. 

But how is that stacking up against the rest of the NHL?

He's currently number one in shots faced, (2048) and total saves, (1886).   He's also seen more shots against and made more saves than anyone else in the league at even strength and he's near the top in powerplay save percentage, (.895), which is also ahead of other possible Vezina candidates Tim Thomas, (.888), Henrik Lundqvist, (.872), and Carey Price, (.875). (stats from NHL.com)

He's only 50 minutes behind Price, the league leader in total minutes played.  But Montreal has played two more games than Carolina has, so at the end of the season, Ward could very well be the league leader in games played, total minutes, total shots against, and total saves. 

All this, and he still has a respectable overall save percentage of .921, just a fraction behind Price who is currently at .922.  Thomas, who is probably the favorite to win the award at this point, has a save percentage of .937 and has an outstanding win/loss record of 29-10-8, but he has started 17 fewer games than Ward.

Last year, Ryan Miller won the award with an amazing 41-18-8 record.  He also had an excellent save percentage of .929, he played in 69 games for a total of 4047 minutes, faced 2098 shots, and made a total of 1948 saves. 

While Ward can't touch that win/loss record this season, he is very close to those season total numbers and still could play 10 more games this year, yet you don't hear any buzz regarding him being a candidate to win the Vezina. 

There is no mention of him in this THN article,  nor have I seen anyone else mention him as a viable candidate.  

Last year's other finalists, Martin Brodeur and Ilya Bryzgalov, both had more wins than Ward will get this season, but their other stats are comparable.  Brodeur faced 2004 shots and made 1836 saves for a save percentage of .916.  Bryzgalov faced 1961 shots and made 805 saves and had a save percentage of .920. 

Ward already has those numbers beat.

New teammate Derek Joslin is certainly a believer in his goaltender.  He had this to say about his goalie when I spoke with him on Sunday.

"I think Cam Ward is arguably the best goalie in the world." 

The defenseman didn't mince words when I asked him what it was like playing in front of Ward.

"He's great.  He has great communication.  He plays the puck really well which makes life easier when the forwards dump it in.  Cam can break it out.  You almost don't even have to go back there sometimes.  It's also nice to have someone back there who can give you a big save if you make a mistake on the blueline."

If you were to ask any of his teammates, you would get similar responses.

Paul Maurice had this to say when I asked him if Ward was having a career best season.

"I think he's been great this year, the whole body of work.  He's played a lot, he's seen a lot of shots."  The coach continued.  "He's really carrying the load, and he's been healthy.  He's really been great."

There are several goalies having super years this season.  Along with favorite Tim Thomas, Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, and Ilya Bryzgalov are all in the running.  Pekka Rinne has an outstanding save percentage of .930 and he could also be in the mix. 

But Ward has faced more shots and made more saves than any of them.  In some cases more than 500 more shots, a significant number.  If he ends the season number one in minutes played, shots against, and saves made, shouldn't he at least be in the conversation?

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