Every superhero needs a sidekick, and for Boston Bruins star defenseman Zdeno Chara that partner in crime for most of this season was Aaron Ward.
The veteran defenseman’s instincts and abilities in the defensive zone allowed Boston’s captain and Norris Trophy finalist to play a more aggressive game at both ends. Even while playing on Boston’s top pair, Ward was still his rugged self. Only injuries that cost him 17 games kept him from leading the team in blocked shots again (he was second with 124) and he was third (second among defensemen) in hits with 151.
A warrior night in and night out, Ward continued to personify what it means to play the “Bruins way” in his second full season in black and gold.
Stats: 65 GP, 3-7-10, 44 PIM, plus-16 regular season; 11 GP, 1-0-1, 2 PIM, plus-4 playoffs.
Contract status: Signed through end of 2009-10 at $2.5 million cap hit.
Season highlight: No Bruins player could look back at the Carolina series and say he played his absolute best for seven games, but the entire series was a microcosm of what Ward means to the Bruins. With so much focus on him as an ex-Hurricanes player facing his former team, Ward went out and scored the series’ first goal to start the Bruins on their way to a Game 1 win. Then he was on the receiving end of the Scott Walker sucker punch near the end of Game 5 but instead of retaliating, he let his play do the talking during the Bruins’ rousing Game 6 victory. Ward flaunted both his poise and character throughout the seven games.
Season low light: In a dramatic home win over another Ward’s former teams, the Detroit Red Wings, the Bruins blueliner checked Wings defenseman Derek Meech in the neutral zone and never returned to the game. The charlie horse Ward suffered kept him out of the lineup for 10 of the Bruins’ next 11 games, with the one appearance lasting just one shift.
In summation … Ward proved the perfect stay-at-home complement to Chara and proved the Bruins correct for re-signing him even though he turned 36 during the season.
Grade: A-minus. Only a few more shots on net, and a couple goals, could’ve made Ward’s season more of a success.
The crystal ball says … Ward could be going into not only the last year of his contract but of his career, so he’ll want to go out with a bang next season. He’ll play exactly the same role for Boston and probably do it just as well for a club that will hopefully be improved in other areas.