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Capital Moments that Mattered: Joel Ward Opens the Flood Gates

Joel Ward turned defense to offense and a close game into a blowout Friday night in Philly.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night the host Philadelphia Flyers had the better of the play over the course of the first twenty minutes (one awful shift notwithstanding), out-shooting the visiting Washington Capitals 8-4, but trailed 1-0 at the intermission. It's always tough to control a period and come out trailing, but good teams find a way to battle through adversity and come back.

The Philadelphia Flyers are not a good team.

The Capitals came out of the locker room and picked up where they left off after a strong finish to the first, opening the second-period scoring less than ninety seconds into the stanza. In a classic example of defense-turned-offense, Joel Ward was rewarded for some strong work in his own zone with a rebound goal at the other end of the ice. First, the entire shift:

The Caps were tasked with a defensive-zone draw less than a minute into the period. Mikhail Grabovski lost the draw cleanly, but the Flyers didn't have anyone that could take advantage of the faceoff win and Luke Schenn (LSchenn) passed the puck across the blueline to Mark Streit. With Ward skating out to cover the point, Streit starts to pull the puck to the middle of the ice and then quickly cuts to the outside:


You often hear coaches, players, and announcers talking about "starting and stopping" rather than making turns when playing defense. Ward provides a perfect example of this, as you see him immediately slam on the brakes and change direction to stay with Streit. Ward's pressure forces Streit toward the boards and takes away the shooting lane, leaving Streit with just a pass back to Brayden Schenn (BSchenn) in the area Streit had just vacated. Streit doesn't put much heat on the pass and Jason Chimera is able to reach over from his position covering LSchenn and poke the puck away from BSchenn. Grabovski - charging out to BSchenn as his defensive assignment - continues up ice with a head of steam, leading to a two-on-one with Chimera against LSchenn (seriously, how annoying is it to write about these two?).

BSchenn backchecks hard and is able to turn the play into a two-on-two, but Ward beat the rest of the Flyers up ice and Grabovski finds him all alone in the high slot. Steve Mason fights off Ward's shot, but Grabovski picks up the rebound and starts the cycle. After skating the puck up the boards, Grabovski throws the puck down low to Chimera, who then throws it behind the net for Ward:


Ward starts towards the corner, but makes a hard turn back towards the net as BSchenn comes to provide defensive coverage. It was all Schenn could do just to stay on his feet, much less stop-and-start to stay with Ward. As we've seen, it's never a good thing to let your check beat you to the net from the corner (also notice the turn rather than stop-and-start in that example), and Friday night Brayden Schenn got a reminder of that lesson. Streit tries to cover, poke-checking the puck off Ward's stick just outside the crease, but the puck goes right to Grabovski who pushes the puck back off Mason's pads:


With so many mentions of LSchenn and BSchenn, it's only too perfect for Joel Ward to finish off the rebound, closing out a shift that's all about the brothers. The quick strike forces Craig Berube to call a time out to try to get the game back under control.

It didn't work.

The Caps followed up with two more goals less than ninety seconds apart, and the game was all over but the punching. And there would be punching, consensual and otherwise.

For all their toughness, the Flyers skated away from Friday night with a 7-0 loss to a historic rival and current division foe...

... and a concussion to their newly acquired top-six pest:


... and a broken face for their new second-line center:


All that and Ray Emery didn't even take Braden Holtby off his game enough to ruin the shutout.

The only thing more embarrassing than the Flyers' defensive effort Friday night was their (back-up) goaltender's response to the blowout. And the only thing more embarrassing than that? Frank Seravalli's choice for third star of the game.


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