Cam Ward stays hot, reasserts himself in Blackhawks’ goalie rotation
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Blackhawks goalie Cam Ward lives for this. He craves the playoffs in what might be his final NHL season, and the Hawks’ bid for a wild-card spot is giving him the thrill he wants.
Ward has been huge during the Hawks’ seven-game winning streak and was sturdy under duress in their 5-2 victory Sunday against the Red Wings. He saved 43 of 45 shots as the Hawks continued their hottest run of the season.
‘‘I love that we’re playing for something, and guys have that belief in the locker room that, if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to give ourselves an opportunity,’’ Ward said. ‘‘We want to just keep this thing rolling.’’
Ward stopped the Red Wings’ first 25 shots before Christoffer Ehn beat him with five minutes left in the second period. Ehn cleaned up a turnover by Patrick Kane inside the blue line and rocketed a wrist shot few goalies would have stopped.
Like the Hawks, Ward has been at his best in the last few weeks. He has four of the seven victories during their winning streak and has reasserted himself in the rotation with rookie Collin Delia.
The Hawks called up Delia when Corey Crawford suffered a concussion in December, and coach Jeremy Colliton started him nine times in 13 games once he made his season debut.
Colliton had a rhythm of going with Delia for two or three games, then giving him a breather with Ward. But Ward has started four of the last six.
Ward was yanked after allowing six goals in two periods Jan. 14 against the Devils, but he has been on fire since. In his last four starts, he has a .940 save percentage and a 2.25 goals-against average.
‘‘I’m seeing the puck real well,’’ he said. ‘‘[On Sunday], I had a few more rebounds than I’d like, but I thought our guys competed and battled in front of me to clear those.
‘‘As a group, we’re just playing much better. We’re not giving up as much as we were the first half of the year. In turn, it gets us a better result.’’
It has been tough for any goalie behind the Hawks’ defense this season. They are second in the NHL in average shots on goal allowed at 35.3 and have been even worse during their winning streak at 37.7.
Colliton wrote off part of the Red Wings’ 45-36 advantage in shots on goal as a result of them firing away and didn’t think the Hawks gave up an egregious number of quality scoring opportunities.
‘‘Ward made some really good saves,’’ he said. ‘‘They threw a lot of pucks at the net, so sometimes that inflates the shot totals, but I do think that’s how you score, too. There’s pucks lying around the crease, there’s battles, so it was a good test for us in that way. Would’ve liked us to be tighter.’’