Matt Hendricks, like most of his Capitals teammates, got today off from practice and, thus, did not speak to reporters about the monster postseason he’s putting together.
It didn’t matter. Brooks Laich said more than enough on Hendricks’s behalf.
Asked why Hendricks has been so effective in the postseason, Laich cracked a wide grin.
“You don’t want to play against a guy like that,” Laich said. “You have to go through a lot to get the best of Matt Hendricks. He’s gonna compete, and he’s gonna do everything in his power to not let you do it. And he’s physical, and he’s strong, he plays hard minutes.”
Indeed, Hendricks has, at times, been the Capitals’ most involved player in these playoffs. He leads the team with 57 hits, three more than Alex Ovechkin. He’s won a 57.4 percent of his draws, the best percentage of any Capital who has taken more than 16. (He’s taken 108, fourth most). The 30-year-old grinder also has a goal and an assist.
In Wednesday’s victory over the Rangers, Hendricks had a bounce-back effort in the faceoff circle. He won nine of his 16 faceoffs (56-percent) after losing a few critical draws down the stretch in Monday’s 3-2 overtime loss, including the draw on Marc Staal’s game winner.
That Hendricks bounced back shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone who followed his circuitous route to the NHL. He didn’t become a regular in the NHL until 2009-10 with Colorado – nine years after Nashville drafted him in the fifth round.
“To his credit, he’s earned everything. Nothing has been given to that guy, he’s earned it all,” Laich added. “And he’s a heart and soul type of guy that you have to have. When you win hockey games he might not be on the scoresheet, but guys in the room are giving him a pat on the back.”
As you can probably tell from Laich’s comments, Hendricks is beloved in the Capitals’ dressing room. But it took Laich a little while to get used to Hendricks’s incessant chatter.
“Gosh, my first impression was that this guy doesn’t shut up,” Laich added. “They very first [preseason] game I played with him was in Columbus and he ended up scoring a hat trick. I had never known the guy, we had been in training camp together for two days and before we went on the ice for this exhibition game — the first exhibition game of the year — this guy was just non-stop talking and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can take this.’”
Pressed about Hendricks’s off-ice antics, Laich shared a tidbit Hendricks may or may not have wanted public.
“I don’t want to share a whole lot of it, but he has different routines that he does,” Laich said while laughing. “One of them is ‘The Rock’ from wrestling. But he’s a fun guy and every single guy on the team will tell you the same thing.”
He’s also proving to be quite a clutch performer in the postseason.
More on the Capitals:
— Beagle listed as ‘day-to-day’
— History provides some optimism
— Penalty kill steps up in Game 6
— Ovechkin’s big night lifts Caps
— Rangers lament missed opportunities
— Caps come out firing, force Game 7
— Holtby, his mom and big-game zen