NASHVILLE, Tenn. | In late October, the Capitals were in Edmonton and I approached Mike Knuble in the visiting locker room at Rexall Place to talk about a few things, from the road trip to Matt Hendricks.
I had also noticed that at the time he had one goal and four assists. For most players, that’s not unusual, but just the last time Knuble had more assists than goals was 2006-07, when he played for a Flyers team that was the worst in the league.
“It’s just kind of the way it’s worked out,” he said. “If you look at my career stats, they’re almost about even as far as goals and assists. I’ve got to believe they’ll catch up and they’ll even out. They’ll start going in more. ….
“I think I’ve had three games with no shots, and that’s not good.”
Knuble is mostly right: He has 270 career goals and 259 career assists. And the production likely won’t get him to the 20-goal mark for the ninth straight season, if he continues to play a more grinding role with the Caps.
But that last thing about shooting was interesting. Knuble is affectionally known as a garbage man kind of player, scoring goals from around the crease where he can get loose rebounds.
That’s about opportunity and being positionally sound. At 39 years old, Knuble hasn’t forgotten how to play sound, fundamental offensive hockey. Shots? They are definitely down.
Last season – 79 regular-season games and six more in the playoffs – Knuble was held without a shot exactly six times. In 16 games so far this year, that has already happened four times.
Knuble is averaging 1.56 shots a game, a pace that would be the lowest of his career since 2001-02.
“When he first started out he was probably more of a checking, grinding type of guy and then he got to, even in Philly, a lot of times it was a third-line grinding person that chipped in goals and then got on the power play, which he still does now,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s still a power-play, penalty-killing guy. In this situation as you guys put as a fourth line, we call as an energy/secondary checking line.”
He became a scorer in that process but is adjusting to life as a fourth-liner (read today’s print story).
Going into Thursday’s game in Winnipeg, Knuble has two goals and five assists – not numbers to scoff at, by any means. But that’s not a pace he’s accustomed to, and much of the reason stems from taking fewer shots.