For the fourth time in as many postseason series, the Washington Capitals will require a game 7 to determine their fate as they square off against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday at the Verizon Center. Although the Caps were able to rally from a game 1 loss on April 15th, the Habs have responded with their own offensive (and defensive) fireworks to prevent DC from punching their ticket into the next round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
It's true that many fans are looking to Alex Semin as a no-show and even questioning Boudreau's decision to give Tomas Fleischmann a sweater (to which, I'm still not sure why) - but I believe the lack of output from one specific member of the Caps is their undoing.
|Nicklas Backstrom||3-2-5, -2||0.71 PPG||3-12-15, +3||0.93 PPG||5-4-9, +7||1.6 PPG|
|Mike Green||3-4-7, -2||1.0 PPG||1-8-9, -5||0.64 PPG||0-3-3, 1||0.5 PPG|
|Brooks Laich||1-5-6, 2||0.86 PPG||3-4-7, -3||0.5 PPG||1-1-2, -3||0.33 PPG|
|Alex Ovechkin||4-5-9, -1||1.29 PPG||11-10-21, +10||1.5 PPG||5-4-9, 5||1.29 PPG|
|Alexander Semin||3-5-8, 2||1.14 PPG||5-9-14, -1||1.0 PPG||0-1-1, -1||0.17 PPG|
While some players have increased their offensive output since 2008 (tip of the hat to Mean Lars), Brooks Laich's post-season play has steadily deteriorated.
Of the six contests played, Laich has only been able to muster one game with a positive +/- rating, and currently ranks last on the Capitals roster in that aspect. Although it may seem this may be largely in part to his 25.0 shifts per game (leading all Caps' forwards) and 20:03 TOI/G and 120:20 total ice time (both ranking him 3rd among DC's forwards), he has had ample chances to attack on the Caps' power play.
His 4:56 PP TOI/G (and total PP TOI of 29:39) rank him fourth on the Caps' roster in both aspects, and is a drastic increase from the last two postseasons with 3:17 in 2008 and 2:34 last season (which yielded 2 PPG's).
As another example of Laich not being able to excell with his increased numbers, he has been credited with 16 shots on goal so far this postseason - averaging 2.67/game. Much like his time on ice, this is a drastic jump from averaging 1.71 shots/game last post season (but on par with his 2.85 in 2008).
Coming to #21's defense, Laich has been able to light the lamp once this postseason. However, his goal (although a game-winner) was one of 6 put up that night on a visibly shaken Carey Price. Not what you'd expect out of a player who set NHL career-bests in goals, assists, points, power play goals, shots, +/- and tied a career high in game winning goals. Maybe John Carlson knocked the mojo out of him when he took a puck to the eye?
It is true that some of the blame lies on the other members of his line for not forcing the puck into an area where Laich can conjure his inner-Knuble to poke the puck into the net - but Brooks is better at stick handling and skating than the aforementioned. Several times throughout the season we have seen him shoulder a slumping Capitals squad, and use his transition game to score 16 goals and 22 assists this season when DC is losing or tied.
So this is your call out, Brooksy. You've already notched one hat trick against the Candiens in 2010, let's see another - but be sure to seal this one with a win.