The 2011-2012 regular season did not go nearly how newly acquired Washington Capitals winger Joel Ward had anticipated. Since becoming a regular in the NHL in the 2008-2009 season, this year recorded career lows in ice time (12:26), goals (6), and assists (12). However, the main reason the Capitals signed him to a four-year, $12 million contract was because of his playoff production.
As a matter of fact, when General Manager George McPhee signed Ward on July 1, he mentioned his stellar postseason play.
“I’d rather have someone that gets 10-15 goals in the regular season but delivers in the playoffs than someone who gets 25 and doesn’t.” – General Manager George McPhee
Now it is Ward’s time to shine in Washington. In last year’s playoffs with the Nashville Predators, Ward recorded 13 points (7 G, 6 A) in 12 games. He became the type of player they tell stories about; the grinder who stepped up to do more than was asked of him.
Ward believes that the Boston Bruins offer a matchup that will allow him to contribute and find a regular spot in the lineup. The Bruins will definitely be bringing their checking game to the series in an attempt to wear down the Capitals and their ‘not-so-tough’ lineup. It is a perfect opportunity for a grinder like Ward to step up and make a difference in the series.
Since entering the lineup again in the final game after missing seven straight games, four as a healthy scratch, Ward has seen himself skating on the fourth line. In two practices this week he’s been working with Keith Aucoin and Mathieu Perrault. Regardless of his linemates though, Ward knows the importance of having a strong third and fourth line in addition to the top six forwards in the postseason.
So what will it take for Ward to get on a roll like he did at this time last season? For him, it’s all about finding the rhythm on the forecheck. Ward knows his what his position require of him and if he pushes hard on the forecheck, he will get his chances.
Follow Matthew on twitter @Geiser19.