“Woooo!” (Photo credit: Alex Brandon)
Joel Ward has had a couple of hot streaks in his career. In fact, he’s making $3 million a year partially because of one (13 points in 12 games) during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Nashville Predators. Despite his playoff success, Ward’s recent regular season results have been unimpressive. In his first year with the Caps, we scored just six goals in 73 games. Last year, in a lockout shortened season, he had eight. Eighteen games into the 2013-14 campaign, he’s matched that total.
“When he came here obviously he had a great playoff for Nashville,” head coach Adam Oates said after the game. “When we’ve talked, him and I, I expect him to play now like he does in the playoffs, every night. Now, that’s a playoff game. We need these points.”
When I asked him about his recent success, Ward scoffed. “Last year was a short one so less games!” he said. “Just trying to work hard and find pucks. I was fortunate to get some good bounces.”
Tonight’s goal, plainly, was one of those lucky markers. Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky went to play the puck behind the net on a Jackets power play, only to pass the puck right to the waiting Ward at the bottom of the far circle.
“I don’t use the word luck — I’m not a big fan of it,” he said when asked about his fortunate tally. “But I got a good bounce I’d say.”
Ward credits his recent success in part to the time Oates has given him on the league’s most lethal power play. The 32-year-old’s hot streak started with a couple of man-advantage tallies in mid-October.
“The power play helps to get some opportunities, get a little confidence,” Ward told me. “That’s what the league’s all about.”
“You get a lot of reps in that area, you feel comfy when you’re playing 5-on-5,” he added of his spot on top unit. “It helps anybody.”
Ward’s streak, it’s worth noting, has been part of a larger period of success for the third line — which Oates jokingly referred to as the first after Tuesday’s game — featuring Jason Chimera and Mikhail Grabovski. Members of that group have 13 goals in since the last week of October — 38 percent of Capitals’ total goal output during that span.
“They’ve been clicking together,” Oates said, singling out Ward and Chimera. “They’re both protecting the puck great and waiting for their buddy. Grabo’s figuring them out and darting in and out. They’re big guys that demand a lot of time in the offensive zone. That wears teams out.”