The Capitals’ recent offensive woes can’t be pinned on one player because as a group they simply aren’t scoring with consistency.
But because they’ve been outscored 17-7 (not counting shootout winners) during this six-game losing streak, there is pressure on players like veteran winger Troy Brouwer, who entered the year with high expectations, to produce on the scoresheet.
Brouwer is riding a nine-game scoring drought heading into Friday’s contest at New Jersey and has recorded just a single assist in that span. It’s been that type of season for the 28-year-old, who has just nine goals and 11 assists in 50 games far off his career-best pace from a year ago.
“Though I feel my game is pretty good, I know I have better,” Brouwer said recently. “I feel like I could be more consistent and I do need to contribute more offensively especially with the expectations from last season, moving into this season and playing with the players I have this year. I feel like I’m not achieving as much as I should.”
Last season when he was paired on a line with Mike Ribeiro – who set up the rangy winger and told him to shoot, never pass the puck back – Brouwer recorded 19 goals and 33 points in 47 games. At a .7 points per game pace, it was the most efficient offensive year of his career and featured the second-best shooting percentage (17.1).
But with a rotating cast of linemates and no designated assist artist, Brouwer’s opportunities at even strength aren’t as easy to come by and his shooting percentage is also down to 10.6. He has just four even strength goals this year, far from what was expected of the second-line right wing but at .4 points per game he’s not far off his career average of .45.
While he wants more goals, Brouwer is trying to focus more on his all around game than not lighting the lamp. He’s the only forward to average more than 3 minutes on the power play and more than 2 on the penalty kill, and the mistakes he’s made – whether a turnover or bad penalty – that directly lead to goals for opponents bother him as much as the lack of offense.
“I’ve had a few bad games – real bad games – during the course of the season which obviously I don’t like to have and it doesn’t help anybody,” Brouwer said. “I don’t take those mistakes too lightly when I’m costing my team goals and a few penalties here and there have not helped our situation.”
Coach Adam Oates never emphasizes statistics when trying to improve a player’s game and reiterated Brouwer’s significance in the lineup, with high ice time and special teams responsibilities regardless of his offense.
“Brouw’s a very important part of our team; you look at the minutes every single night [and] he plays a lot of minutes, he plays first PK,” Oates said. “He’s a safety valve on the power play. He’s not the go-to guy on the power play, so some nights he’s going to get chances some nights he’s not. He understands that he’s an important cog to the power play. Do I want more goals? Sure, they’ll come.”
The sooner the better for the Capitals.