History shows Cam Ward to be the Conn Smythe Trophy winner of the 2006 playoffs at age 22, when the Carolina Hurricanes won their first and only NHL championship. But let’s not forget the circumstances surrounding his ascendancy.
Ward was a rookie netminder with an .882 save percentage in 28 games that year and the backup to the more experienced Martin Gerber. But when Gerber faltered in the opening series against Montreal, Ward was thrust into the spotlight. He entered Game 3 in Montreal with his team down two games and promptly held the fort in a 2-1 overtime victory. After scoring 12 times in the first two games, the Habs couldn’t muster more than two goals a game the rest of the series, and the Canes were rolling.
While he shared the crease with Gerber against Buffalo in the conference final, Ward shut the door on Edmonton in the Cup final, snagging the Conn Smythe Trophy with a .920 save percentage. A year later, Ward added to his trophy case by helping Canada win the 2007 World Championship, platooning with Dwayne Roloson.
Using solid fundamentals, a cool demeanor and a quick glove hand, Ward helped lead the Canes back to the conference final in 2009, but that was the end of post-season fun for Carolina during his era. The Canes tried in vain to turn a younger netminder into their next No. 1, but false starts with Anton Khudobin, Eddie Lack and Scott Darling saw the team go back to Ward time and again, even as his skills declined.
Ward and the Hurricanes parted ways in the summer of 2018, when he signed a free-agent deal with Chicago. His 318 wins are easily the most among goalies who played for the Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers, as are his 668 games – more than double that of second-place Arturs Irbe.
And Ward will always have that Cup victory.
Born: Feb. 29, 1984, Saskatoon, Sask.
NHL Career: 2005-current
Teams: Car, Chi
Stats: 318-244-84, 2.70 GAA, .909 SP, 27 SO
Trophies: 1 (Smythe-1)
Stanley Cups: 1
DID YOU KNOW?
As a Hurricane, Ward often featured Blackbeard the pirate on his mask. Blackbeard, a.k.a. Edward Teach, met his end in North Carolina during a battle at Ocracoke Island, located in the state’s popular Outer Banks region.