Joel Ward leads the San Jose Sharks in goals, but my new love for the winger goes deeper than that. It's more than numbers, more than the facts and figures I've been accused of loving more than people...it's...
Yeah, it's that. Most hockey players enjoy hockey (looking at you, Sidney Crosby), but it's different with Ward. His celebration after his empty-net goal for a hat trick was a beautiful mixture of excitement and relief. It's the kind of celebration that comes from an undrafted player who has now scored 100 goals over in his 524 game NHL career.
Also this. Not hard to love a guy who has already won over his teammates like this.
It took him a couple tries, but Ward got his hat trick through traffic and into the empty net.
This is the kind of dirty goal Ward was signed to score. He follows up the play and takes advantage of a leaky save by Eddie Lack to get the Sharks on the board. It's that kind of sticktoitiveness that endears Ward to hockey fans — everybody loves a grinder. Shout out to Lack for having a very bad night for the sole purpose of making Ward look awesome.
You can't blame this one on Lack — though crediting the Carolina defenders' controllers becoming unplugged would be fair. Ward strolls into the zone, has oodles of time to pick his spot and snipes it past Lack for his second of the night. While Ward is better known for scoring goals like his first of the night, he certainly has the shooting ability to beat netminders one on one.
Reggae Saturdays, eight points in eight games and a great night against the Carolina Hurricanes keeps the Ward honeymoon period rolling.
Ward isn't the only lovable addition to the Sharks, as the Martins more than proved their value (again) against the Hurricanes.
It wasn't a great night for the Sharks in terms of shot differential — the Hurricanes often looked the more dangerous of the two teams, which is a bit troubling given...well, it's the Hurricanes. But new netminder Martin Jones was up to the task, stopping all but two of the shots he faced.
One of the two goals he gave up came with the 'Canes on a power play. His even strength save percentage is up to .951, good enough for sixth in the NHL (among goalies with at least 240 minutes played). Not bad. You can see his adjusted save percentage (still sixth in the NHL) compared to the rest of the league's netminders below.
The other Martin was back tonight and while his corsis were very, very not good (-15 in even strength play) his calming presence out there with Brent Burns can't be overstated long term. It's good to have him back, and hopefully last night was more about shaking off the rust than an indicator of future performance.
There was a lot to like about this Sharks team before this season began — the three new additions make it even easier.