NEWARK – Saturday’s game between the St. Louis Blues and the Washington Capitals is the first meeting between the two this season, but they’ve already played a significant role in each other’s seasons.
A blockbuster trade in July with St. Louis set the Capitals’ dream season into motion, as Washington dealt Troy Brouwer, goalie Pheonix Copley and a third-round pick to St. Louis for right wing T.J. Oshie, who has spent almost all of the season on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
The Capitals could clinch the Presidents’ Trophy if they get at least a point or if the Dallas Stars lose a point. The Blues have clinched a playoff berth, sitting in second place in the Central Division with 97 points.
Oshie and Brouwer have had to wait until the last 10 games of the season to face their former teams. As much as Oshie wants to play, he might have to wait even longer. He missed his first game of the season with the flu on Friday night against the New Jersey Devils, and Coach Barry Trotz said after the game that he’s not sure of Oshie’s status because he hasn’t talked with him.
“Right when you get traded, one of the first things you do when the schedule comes out is look to see when you’re playing your old team,” Brouwer told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “… Washington, I was a little disappointed that we played them so late in the season, it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting. It’s always tough going back and playing your old team.
“I haven’t done it with Washington yet so the first time is going to be weird, playing against that jersey that I played for for four years and being in that building on the different side of the crowd. To go and see those guys, wish them well going into the playoffs, but it’s going to be a tough game among two really good hockey teams.”
Brouwer had 21 goals and 22 assists last season, and though his production has dipped slightly this year (15 goals and 18 assists), he credited that to being in the more defensive Western Conference. Oshie has hit his career-high in goals with 23 in Washington, 10 of which have come playing the diamond position on the power play that Brouwer used to occupy. His overall point total has also slipped because he’s curiously averaging the fewest assists per game of his career (.31).
“He comes to the rink with a tremendous amount of joy,” Trotz said of Oshie. “He loves to play. I knew he had a really good skill level. His skill level is a lot higher than I even thought. He’s fit in seamlessly with the guys.”
The acquisition of Oshie brought stability to a top-line right wing role that had been a revolving door. Though there’s been more shuffling there in recent weeks as Trotz has experimented with combinations, it will likely be Oshie or Justin Williams occupying that spot in the postseason, the other on just as potent a second line.
“I feel all in all I’ve had a great contribution to the team so far this year, hopefully still a whole lot more contribution still to go,” Brouwer said. “On the other side, I still pay attention to what Washington does and Oshie’s having a good year over there as well. Sometimes trades don’t always work out both ways, but I feel this trade has worked out on both sides.”
A quick trip for the Blues, Brouwer won’t have a lot of time to see his old home and catch up with friends and former teammates. But he expects it to be a special night for him.
“Even driving to the game – we used to drive down Constitution Avenue to get to the game,” Brouwer said. “I don’t think we will from the hotel, but just seeing the landmarks, seeing the things I saw every day for four years during the season, it brings back good memories.”