Hard-working Matt Hendricks’s impact on Capitals goes beyond the scoresheet
By Tarik El-Bashir,
Points, however, aren’t the best measurement of Hendricks’s contribution to the team, according to veteran Brooks Laich.
“He’s a heart and soul type of guy that you have to have,” Laich said. “When you win hockey games he might not be on the score sheet, but guys in the room are giving him a pat on the back.”
Hendricks has at times been one of the Capitals’ best players this postseason. The 30-year-old leads the team in hits with 57, which is three more than captain Alex Ovechkin. He also has won 57.4 percent of his faceoffs, the top percentage among Capitals who regularly take draws and 10th best among all players who have taken at least 100 faceoffs.
In Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers, Hendricks was charged with losing the faceoff that led to Marc Staal’s overtime winner. On Wednesday, he bounced back with a strong performance in the Capitals’ critical 2-1 victory in Game 6. Hendricks logged 18 minutes 17 seconds, making four hits (tied for second most on the team) and winning nine of his 16 faceoffs (56 percent).
That Hendricks rebounded shouldn’t come as a surprise, given his circuitous route to the NHL. He didn’t become a regular until 2009-10 with Colorado — nine years after Nashville drafted him in the fifth round. He didn’t sign his first multiyear NHL contract until February 2011.
“To his credit, he’s earned everything,” Laich said. “Nothing has been given to that guy, he’s earned it all.”
One contribution that does not show up on the score sheet is Hendricks’s leadership, which Laich said is almost always of the vocal variety.
“Gosh, my first impression was that this guy doesn’t shut up,” Laich said of the first time he played on a line with Hendricks in September 2010. “The 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. I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can take this.’ ”
Pressed about Hendricks’s off-ice persona, Laich also mentioned a tidbit Hendricks may or may not have wanted to become 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. He’s a fun guy.”
Unless you’re playing against him.
“He works so damn hard out there that he’s hard to play against,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “You wouldn’t want to play against him because he doesn’t give you much room and he’s physical out there without taking penalties.”
Hendricks, like most of his teammates, had the day off Thursday, so he was not available to comment. But he didn’t need to; Laich had no trouble explaining what makes Hendricks so effective when the stakes are high.
“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 going to compete, and he’s going to do everything in his power to not let you do it. And he’s physical, and he’s strong, he plays hard minutes.”
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