Joel Ward has been a key cog for this Sharks team all year, and he’s proving his worth this postseason.
The San Jose Sharks needed a boost up front following last season’s debacle, and general manager Doug Wilson identified the forward he thought would fit in with this group: Joel Ward.
While some might have thought a three-year contract for the 35-year-old was a bit long, Ward has delivered in both the regular and postseasons as he’s proven to be exactly the kind of player this Sharks team has needed.
That was on display again last night as Ward was the key figure in sparking San Jose’s 5-2 come-from-behind victory at the Shark Tank as team teal takes a 1-0 series lead in their Western Conference semifinals series.
Ward, and his other two linemates in Joonas Donskoi and Logan Couture, were simply dominant in the third period as the trio combined for three goals and two assists and a plus-five rating as they were the catalysts behind San Jose’s comeback.
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Helping kick start the comeback, Ward made one of his patented shot fakes before feeding Tomas Hertl who tied the game at one early in the third period.
That same shot fake would come in handy once again after Donskoi made a nice feed to Ward who was in all alone on Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. Ward was able to deke around the sprawling Rinne and tuck the puck inside the post to give the Sharks the lead for good.
One reason Wilson targeted Ward during free agency was his ability to raise his game during the playoffs. Ward has continued his reputation as a big-time performer as he ranks fourth on the team with one goal and five assists this postseason, including a three-game point streak.
The six-foot-one, 225-pound Ward is the kind of bruising, grinding style of forward that is needed to succeed come playoff time, and he usually elevates his game when his best is needed.
In 59 career postseason games, Ward has amassed 15 goals, 26 assists and a plus-10 rating. Those are really strong numbers for someone who’s mostly been used as a second, or third-line player throughout most of his career.
It’s been a great start to this postseason for Ward and the rest of his teammates as they’ve won five of their six contests thus far. Ward has played a pivotal role in those victories and will need to continue to do so if the Sharks are going to reach their ultimate goal.
If Ward delivers more performances like the one put forth last night, he’ll have validated the vision Wilson foresaw way back in July when he decided to bring Ward on board as a member of the Sharks.