By Chris Gordon
Photo: Patrick McDermott
After Alex Ovechkin the Capitals goal scoring list takes a dip. Coming into Sunday’s game, Ovi had 38 goals. Joel Ward, the second-leading scorer, had 15. Ward continues to do his part. The 33-year-old added three more points to a remarkable season, scoring twice and assisting once in Washington’s
5-4 6-5 victory over Detroit.
“Since last year we’ve asked him to play more involved,” Caps coach Adam Oates said after the game. “He’s a good hockey player. He can’t just come to the rink and be complacent that ‘Oh, I’m gonna play third-line minutes and do the job.’ No. We need production. We need you to help the other guys out. … We need you to be a goal scoring threat.”
Signed after his 13-point postseason with Nashville in 2011, Ward played the role of the checking third liner during his first two years with the Caps. He scored fewer goals in his opening season with Washington than he did in those 12 games of his storied playoff run. This year, however, Ward has found his game. Along with Jason Chimera, who scored the team’s first goal on Sunday, Ward has made Washington’s third line into its biggest scoring threat outside of Ovechkin and the power play. The two played with Eric Fehr against the Wings.
“It’s just straightforward,” Ward said of his line’s play. “North-south is what we try to do. There’s not rocket science to it to be honest with you. We’re not trying to dipsy-doodle around the net, we’re just trying to get pucks along the boards and beat our guys the best we can. It is pretty simple.”
Thanks to his scoring, Ward’s seen his role grow. For the first time since coming to Washington, he’s seeing consistent power play time, playing on the first unit on one of league’s top man-advantage squads. Part of his goal scoring, however, is do to luck. Ward currently has a shooting percentage just under 18 percent.
But on Sunday, Ward was an offensive force. He nearly scored twice in the opening minutes, hitting the post once. Seven minutes and 20 seconds into the game, he tallied a power play goal to put the Caps up by two.
He added to that with another goal midway through the second.
Both goals were assisted by Connor Carrick, who twice jumped up past the goal line to make a pass. The 19-year-old registered his first career multi-point game.
“My game is to make plays,” said Carrick. “There’s only a couple times a game when you get that opportunity. You try to pick those out.”
“They go so hard,” he added about playing with Ward and Chimera. “They do a really good job of getting open. Any time you put a puck in a loose area, create a foot race for them, the odds are in your favor. They both skate really, really well.”
Ward’s has already matched his career high with 17 goals, despite playing just 56 games so far. Chimera, meanwhile, has more than doubled his point total compared to last year. His goals, too, have almost quadrupled, from three to 11.
“They’ve been reliable,” Oates said of the two. “It affects the other coach’s match-ups because if they’re threating you just can’t worry about Backie and Ovi. We need depth through our lineup.”
“They bring it every night,” he added.
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