Challenge Accepted-Lack and Team Rise Up
March 24, 2017, 1:39 PM ET [7 Comments]
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The Canes continue to make a push for the final playoff spot as they beat the Canadiens 4-1 last night. Given the Canes were one of the bottom five teams in the NHL standings at the beginning of March, it is quite shocking the Canes are only five points behind the Bruins with two games in hand.
Looking at the Canes last eleven games, they are 7-1-3—what is interesting is the correlation between this improved play and when Coach Peters called out Eddie Lack on March 3rd. Ironically, those last eleven games have been from March 5th through last night against Montreal.
I’ve talked with many of my previous goalie partners about the situation with Lack. Many times in goaltending, coaches will call goalies out even when the issue is more about the entirety of the team’s play. Given this, I still think that Coach Peters was trying to motivate all of his team—no one enjoys when someone is singled out on a team.
Everyone in that room knew that while Lack was taking the heat, if you looked at most of February and parts of January there was a trend of leaving Ward/Lack out to dry. Unfortunately, that is the burden of being a goalie—you are the sole person responsible for keeping the puck out and as such, there are times when you will take the heat. It is similar to getting pulled when it’s not the goalie’s performance that was an issue. While all 18 players have to play D, they don’t have the responsibility of solely being a defensive position.
It appeared that the trade deadline and potential for “new guys coming in” or “losing guys” distracted the team. If the Canes were buyers, some young guys would be seeing themselves scratched. To me, Coach Peters' message was very clear to the entire team: The trade deadline is over, you’re here until the end of the season, now go out and earn your spot.
Since the harsh criticism, the entire team has played better in front of both Ward and Lack. The results have been obvious and apparent, especially when looking at Lack’s stats. Since March 5th, Lack is posting a 1.41 GAA and a .947 SV% with a 4-1-0 record. Ward’s numbers aren’t as “pretty,” but he’s posted a .910 SV% or better in four of his past six starts since March 5th and is 3-0-3.
Looking further at Lack, he has been given games against top tier teams and won—Nashville, Minnesota and Montreal. This is key because many of his previous games had been against lower-tier NHL teams because of a lack of trust. He is showing that he can provide the Canes reliable goaltending against anyone in the league. Given he is hot right now, I imagine the Canes will start him more.
It is really good to see Lack finding a good groove—obviously the question is on whether this is isolated or sustainable. Looking at next year, Lack is certainly making a push to ensure that he is one of the two goalies.
The Canes next three games are against the worst two Eastern Conference teams—New Jersey and Detroit. The next week could certainly be interesting for Canes fans. Go Canes!