For the Capitals' Brooks Laich, hard work is paying off

By Dan Steinberg
Thursday, March 18, 2010

Right after Brooks Laich scored his second goal Tuesday night, the Capitals' media relations folks sent out a notice that he had set career highs in both goals (24) and points (54). So I figured what the heck, maybe I should ask him about setting these career highs.

"Career high in what?" he asked.

I told him.

"Who?" he asked.

I told him again.

"Hadn't thought about it until you just told me," he replied.

Party time in the Caps' dressing room! Break out the gruel!

As Laich noted, he wasn't alone. In fact, Tomas Fleischmann set a career high for goals in the same game with his 20th, and I didn't even notice. Now, I happen to think Laich might have had some idea about his own stats, since he promptly rattled off exactly how many goals Fleischmann and Eric Fehr -- another guy who's already reached his career best -- have on the season, but Fehr thought maybe Laich's ignorance was legit.

"I didn't know when I had mine," noted Fehr, who also has career highs in goals (19) and points (34). "I knew what my career high was, but I hadn't thought of it. When I got it, I didn't think of it once. Somebody told me after the game, and I was like, 'Oh. Cool.' We don't think about that until after the year, you know?"

Nicklas Backstrom, it turns out, also has a career high in goals, and will soon set a career high for points. Alexander Semin is on pace to tie his career high for goals and break his career high for points. That would be five of the team's top nine forwards with career highs in both categories this season.

But since I was focused on Laich's accomplishment this week, we'll stick with him for now. In honor of his achievement, Bruce Boudreau talked after the game about Laich being traded to the Caps organization, and having one of the worst plus-minuses at the Portland affiliate the next season.

"And I'm going, 'What did they trade for him?" Boudreau said. "But when he came to Hershey, he was a different guy," Boudreau continued. "And he's so committed. I've never seen a guy, or haven't seen too many, that like hockey as much as he does, and will consistently never miss an optional, and work so hard. He deserves everything he gets. I'm really proud of him."

And if you ask teammates about Laich, you'll get the same basic line.

"He works hard every night, that's the bottom line," Brendan Morrison said. "He's not flashy, he's doing his job. He's getting his minutes, he's getting his power play time, he's getting his penalty kill, he's in the game all the time, because he's a good player, because he's solid on both ends of the ice."

"He's winning a lot of battles," Fehr added. "Especially on the power play, he seems to be finding a lot of pucks and taking advantage of that opportunity."

Laich, in fact, said he's been getting better opportunities offensively, while playing with more offensive-minded players and logging more power-play time. I figured he would be happy to have set two career milestones on the same night.

"Do I look happy?" he asked, flashing all the joyful mirth of a Saskatchewan sand dune. "I'm not really rejoicing. I just play and try and help us win, and we keep winning hockey games. Life, when you're sitting in first place in the entire league, is pretty good."

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