Nothing gets to Ward

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

After you've played hockey at the National Hockey League level for a number of years, you learn to put developments into perspective. You learn to take the overview, even though you're not overlooking events at all, you're right in the middle of them.

At least, you should learn. Many a player never learns. And he never lives up to his potential.

It has been said that getting to the NHL is two-thirds ability and one-third attitude. But staying in the NHL is one-third ability and two-thirds attitude.

That's why it appears almost certain that Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward is the real thing. He's 22 years old but he acts like he's 32. Or sometimes 62.

Kevyn Adams sits beside him in the Carolina dressing room and is constantly amazed by the manner in which Ward appears to be impervious to pressure.

"He's unbelievable," said Adams. "Nothing bothers him. He's always the same."

Adams is one of those bouncy, effervescent people who always seem to be bubbling with enthusiasm. Ward is quiet, relaxed almost to the point of lethargy.

It would be tempting for Adams to turn to the guy next to him and try to pump him up. He doesn't bother.

"I just leave him alone," laughs Adams. "We all leave him alone."

And why not? What could they possibly tell him?

It takes years for a goaltender to learn to forget the last goal. Some never learn it. They give up a bad goal and they get rattled and before you know it, they've given up two more.

Ward has given up a couple of bad goals in this post-season. He has had a couple of bad games. But in the first instance, he has shut the door afterwards. In the second instance, he has bounced back stronger than ever.

There are many goalies who would be furious about Ryan Smyth's game-winning goal for the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. They shouldn't be. Smyth followed the puck into the crease, which has always been legal, and the puck bounced in off his body. Also legal.

But goalies, being goalies, often don't see crucial goals with such clarity.

Here's Ward's response to questions regarding his opinion of the goal's validity: "It's not for me to decide. That's why there's replay. That's why they do that sort of stuff.

"It was one of those things that it could have gone either way. We saw in Montreal kind of the same kind of deal with Roddy (Brind'Amour). I didn't know. I don't know. That's why those guys are there -- to make those decisions."

Another factor comes into play here. Here's a kid who has now played more playoff games than regular-season games, coming into his home town and facing the most rabid crowd in the league. He gives up an early goal.

Many a goalie would fall victim to the circumstances. Afterwards, fans would say they understood, that his inability to hang in was regrettable, but only human.

Ward shrugged off that goal and played a superb game.

"That's how you respond to those situations," he said afterwards. "I didn't let it affect me. But it was tough, getting down that early. A big part of our game plan was to come off this with a strong start. It wasn't easy playing from behind that quickly."

No. But he did it.

Exactly 20 years ago, Patrick Roy led the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup. That was the last time a rookie goaltender was able to make such a claim.

He too had that quiet resolve. Roy tended to be cocky. Ward is not that. But they both had the perfect attitude for their position and their game.

Whether Ward can also win a Stanley Cup remains to be seen. Whether he can be as great as Roy also remains to be seen.

But there's no compelling reason to bet against either.


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