Photo credit: John Tlumacki
The Capitals are back in Washington with a chance to keep their season alive. It didn’t have to be that way. With half a minute left to protect their lead in Game Five, Joel Ward high-sticked Carl Hagelin. The ensuing Rangers powerplay cost the Capitals the lead and the win– and what would have been a veritable chokehold on the series.
After he bested the Bruins in the quarterfinal round, Ward was the target of some vile and feckless trash from Boston fans. After his double-minor penalty led to Monday’s loss, that same pernicious evil erupted from Caps fans as well.
Here are Three True Things:
- Joel Ward is not at fault for the team’s loss.
- This hate is as rare as it is unacceptable.
- Joel Ward is a great hockey player and a great addition to the ’11-’12 Washington Capitals.
Joel Ward has earned himself a sterling reputation. He’s a playoff stud with 10 goals in 30 games. He’s a clutch player with a pair of game-winners in the postseason. He’s strong on the puck– with the 4th best Corsi score relative to quality of competition among Caps forwards despite starting most of his shifts near his own net [BtN 1, BtN 2]. Yeah, he’s exactly the guy you want in an elimination game.
If the Caps are to shake off the reputation of psychological frailty that has followed them the last few years, they’ll have to come out on Wednesday night as a united front. No one should be singled out for blame. The stories about Joel Ward’s terrible play have to be brushed aside. The criticism has to be hushed. Here’s how we’re gonna do it.
RMNB’s “This Means Ward” & “Caps In Seven” Signs
This Means Ward is an affirmation. Joel Ward represents the kind of hockey that has got the Capitals so far. In spite of critics and doubters and demagogues, Ward executes Hunter Hockey better than anyone. His fourth line, paired with Keith Aucoin and Mike Knuble, has become a grinding dynamo, wearing down the other team’s D in their own zone and getting the greasy goals when they’re needed most.
Ward is an fitting conscript for the hockey team that Dale Hunter has marshaled. And now, as the team faces the precipice of summer once more, he’s the likely guy to bring them back from the brink.
Crash the net.
Posters by Ian Oland.