Khudobin the man in Carolina
Ward, 30, came into the league in 2005-06 and in his rookie season, led the Hurricanes to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Not only did he win the Cup in his first year in the league, but he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league's most valuable player in the postseason that year as well.
Fast forward to now and things are definitely changing in Carolina. Sure, Ward is still a member of the team and still gets playing time but he is no longer the number one man between the pipes for this franchise.
Right now, that title belongs to 27-year-old masked man Anton Khudobin. Khudobin, who has had an excellent season for the Hurricanes this season, was recently rewarded for his fine play with a two-year contract extension worth $4.5 million.
Coming into this season, it was assumed that Ward was going to be the guy for the Hurricanes. He was healthy and ready to prove that injuries and somewhat inconsistent play were a thing of the past.
Unfortunately for Ward, neither of those things happened. Ward missed eight games in late October and early November with a groin injury and then was injured again on January 5th with an undisclosed lower body injury.
When Ward has played this season, he has struggled. In 21 games, Ward is 6-9-5 with a 3.23 goals against average and a .891 save percentage.
With Ward's injuries and poor play between the pipes ever present, this opened the door for Khudobin. Khudobin has taken this opportunity and has showed the Hurricanes, their coaching staff, management and fans that he is not only the goaltender of the present for this hockey team, but might just be the guy for the future.
In 23 games this season, Khudobin is 14-8 with a 2.16 goals against average (eighth in the league) and a .928 save percentage (fourth in the league). While this is a small sample, Khudobin has proven a lot already this season.
For starters, he has shown that he can really stop the puck. In 23 games this season, Khudobin has faced an average of close to 29 shots per game and more often than not this season, has come out on top by not only making the saves he needs to make, but also by winning the hockey game.
Secondly, Khudobin plays a very confident game. He challenges shooters, he is always at the top of his crease, he gets himself into position not only for the first shot, but for second and third shots as well and he also never shows any kind of quit in his game as he consistently battles to stop pucks.
Lastly, Khudobin has shown that when given an opportunity to play, that he can play well and win games on a regular basis. Khudobin has won 14 of his 23 starts and in the games he has lost, he has played well enough to give his team every opportunity to win a hockey game.
Ward may be the longest tenured goaltender on the club but Khudobin is the man who is playing games, making saves, picking up wins and showing the franchise that he should be the guy going forward.