Predsâ€™ Ward on a roll
Randy Sportak, QMI Agency
|Nashville Predators right wing Joel Ward celebrates his goal on the Vancouver Canucks during the third period in Game 5 of their NHL Western Conference semi-final hockey playoff game in Vancouver, British Columbia, May 7, 2011. (REUTERS/Ben Nelms)
As proud as Joel Ward is to have written such an incredible story in his past, the Nashville Predators winger is proud to be penning a new chapter.
Ward beams about being the youngster who overcame the death of his father as a teenager, and battled his way to the NHL after four years of University hockey in P.E.I. and three seasons in the minors.
He’s just as thrilled to credit all those who helped him along the way, including the parents of teammates in minor hockey and the Minard family, who were his billets through four seasons in the OHL, and is proud to give back as a Big Brother in Nashville.
Plus, there’s his mother, Cecilia, who worked as a registered nurse and would pull double shifts if necessary to give her three sons all they needed through those tough days.
But Ward is being known for something else, an impact performer when the games mean more and more.
“Everybody likes to talk about university hockey, my dad, all that, which is OK, but I want to be known as a good hockey player,” he said. “It’s been a long journey and I’ve taken strides.”
Giant leaps would be a more appropriate description.
With his two goals and three points in Saturday night’s 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks — both tallies came in the third period to break open what was a tie game — Ward heads into Monday’s Game 6 on spree in which he’s netted four goals and three assists in the last four games.
He has a simple key to success.
“It’s having fun. You’ve got to go out there and have a good time,” he insisted. “I’m trying to do that, not stressing too much. I know the games are so important, but if you know your assignments and details, go relax. It’s a game.
“In the first game of this series, I caught myself over-thinking. I took a different approach, enjoy myself and it’s paid off.
“I may never get this opportunity again.”
Ward had 10 goals in 80 regular season games. The 30-year-old leads the Preds in the playoffs with seven goals and 12 points.
But this chapter isn’t complete. The Predators know it’ll be a tall order to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series against the Canucks, but staving off elimination served notice they have a chance.
More importantly, the Preds proved they can play with the regular season champs and Stanley Cup favourites
“We got a little too anxious at home with the crowd (in the third and fourth games of the series),” Ward said. “I don’t know if we thought we’d just win a game because we were home or what the situation was, but it was good to get on the road and regroup.
“We just went and played.”