Troy Brouwer has made a career out of being a complementary top-six forward by finishing checks in the corners, distracting goaltenders with his presence in front and chipping in with occasional offense. As he played alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom last year or skating with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in Chicago, Brouwer’s role wasn’t to serve as the top scoring option on his line.
But this season on the Capitals’ second line, Brouwer has been consistent offensive threat. He has 16 goals and 29 points in 41 games this season and is producing at a pace that over the course of an 82-game season would eclipse his career highs in both goals (22) and points (40).
“I think this year more than any other year I’ve been the shooter on the line,” Brouwer said. “Last year playing with Ovi a lot of the year he was the shooter. When I was in Chicago I with Kane and Toews a lot of the time and they were the shooters.
“I think I’m just getting a lot more opportunities to shoot,” he continued. “Ribs tells me never to pass it back to him if I’ve got an opportunity. When you got a guy that you know doesn’t have to have the puck back to score and wants to score but doesn’t need to score to be successful, then it makes my job easier and when I get a look I shoot.”
Of his 16 goals, Brouwer has scored seven on the power play and one shorthanded. Brouwer’s ability to be respected as a legitimate scorer on the power play has helped open up space for his teammates and vice versa.
If multiple members of an opposing penalty kill drifts over toward Ovechkin in the left circle, Brouwer is open for an easy one-timer in the slot or just inside the right circle. If they swarm Brouwer in front, it leaves Ovechkin and others with plenty of open ice to work with.
“On the power play he’s got a lot of goals because he’s got a good mid-range shot there and he’s a big guy, he plays that position well,” Coach Adam Oates said. “That’s a position I like on a power play and I think when you get confidence it trickles into other parts of your game.”
Power-play time isn’t new to Brouwer but now that he’s required to have a shot in front not just a tip or redirection, he has worked on the way he prepares to receive a pass on the man-advantage.
“I have to focus more on making sure I get a quick shot off, making sure that I can handle a bad pass and still be able to make a play or get a shot,” Brouwer said. “It’s been more focus this year on shooting the puck than it has any other year.”