Carolina’s goaltending has not been good this year.
You can see it in the numbers. The ‘Canes have the NHL’s second-worst save percentage (.886) despite giving up the fewest shots (25.3).
You can see it in the club’s record (8-12-4).
You can see it in the standings (tied for last in the Eastern Conference).
Where you won’t see it, though, is from the head coach.
Bill Peters isn’t calling out either Cam Ward or Eddie Lack for their sub-par efforts, even though he’s had enough chances to do so.
He didn’t do it following Monday’s loss to the Rangers, in which Ward allowed this crucial (and, ugly) Chris Kreider tally:
Ward’s stick-smashing response was telling. That was a bad goal, costly, and one that can’t go in.
Yet when asked after the game, this happened. From the News & Observer:
Peters refused to pin the loss on Ward. He felt there were more culprits than his goaltender.
“We didn’t have enough guys going and we weren’t good enough in a lot of areas,” Peters said. “Just too many mistakes. We were hit and miss, hot and cold throughout the game.”
After Tuesday’s practice, Peters was again asked about his goaltending — this time, how he’d rate it through the first quarter of the season.
Again, Peters punted.
You can watch the video here but, essentially, he answered by saying the goaltending is “like our team,” then transitioned to how the ‘Canes need to improve their special teams and quality of offensive chances.
Peters then finished by saying “we can be better in all areas.”
So, artful dodging.
This positioning is pretty noteworthy because, as statistics suggest, Carolina should be better than it is. The ‘Canes don’t give up many shots, but they take plenty — 30.7 per game, seventh in the NHL — and, this week, GM Ron Francis admitted that’s all adding up to some serious frustration.
“The two big areas that are working against each other is that at one end we’re struggling to score goals — our shooting percentage is down — and at the other end, we’re struggling to make key stops at the key time with our save percentage,” he told ESPN. “So, you put that together and it adds up to more losses than wins, even in games when you feel you were the better team.
“That part has been frustrating.”
The fact Peters hasn’t come out and said “OK FINE, WE NEED A SAVE,” is interesting, especially given what’s going on with a struggling club in the opposite conference.
In Colorado, head coach Patrick Roy’s had no problem calling out his goalie, Semyon Varlamov.
He did it last week after a loss to Ottawa, and he did it again after Monday’s loss in Brooklyn.
In other areas, though, Roy has been far less critical.
Despite an ugly 10-14-1 record, the rest of the Avalanche haven’t been subjected to the same type of criticism — heck, we’ve covered the “Patrick Roy is unfailingly optimistic” thing on a couple of occasions (like here and here, for example). Even though Colorado’s shot and possession metrics aren’t good, and the special teams aren’t either, goaltending is what gets the brunt of the critiques.
Now, there are some serious differences between Carolina and Colorado. Varlamov’s a big-money, long-term contract who Roy constantly refers to as “our guy,” whereas Ward could be gone after this season (Lack, meanwhile, gets a bit of a pass, given he’s only been a ‘Cane for a couple of months.)
There’s also the dynamic from Roy’s Hall of Fame playing career. It’s fair to suggest he intrinsically values high-caliber netminding, perhaps more than others, and that his standard is naturally higher because of it.
But hey, Peters probably wants some good goaltending too.