Brouwer passes screen test by creating traffic

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Troy Brouwer would like to score goals. He really would.

Playing on the Washington Capitals’ top line with left wing Alex Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom, the big right wing said last week his production level was “a little unacceptable.” A goal and an assist later, Brouwer still has just three points in seven games.

But it doesn’t seem so unacceptable anymore. That’s because Brouwer is fulfilling a major role for the Capitals by being the man to set screens in front of the net.

“As long as someone’s scoring, it doesn’t matter. Everyone on the ice should be trying to do the same thing, which is score a goal,” Brouwer said. “For me, because you’re standing in front of the net, you don’t get as many touches on passes and stuff like that, unless you’re going to get loose pucks and tip pucks in front.”

Saturday night provided two perfect examples of how Brouwer contributed to the offense without winding up on the score sheet. On both of defenseman Mike Green’s power-play goals, Brouwer’s screen made it impossible for Detroit Red Wings goalie Ty Conklin to see.

“That’s his spot. He’s good at it,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think he’s found a home.”

On the power play especially, Washington has made a habit out of creating traffic necessary for the unit to thrive. But it’s much easier for Brouwer to stand there than, say, the likes of Ovechkin or right wing Alexander Semin.

“He’s good in front of the net. He’s been there a lot of times,” Backstrom said. “That’s where he likes to be.”

And where he has to be. Brouwer said Saturday that Boudreau made it a point to say he must be around the crease if he wants to be on the power play.

“It’s pretty easy,” Boudreau said matter-of-factly. “If you want to play, you better do what you’re supposed to.”

Brouwer knows what he’s supposed to do. He has made a living in hockey by getting in the way and outmuscling opponents.

Chris Clark proved that a right wing alongside Ovechkin can produce big numbers (30 goals in 2006-07), but Brouwer’s job is a bit different. The 6-foot-3, 213-pounder’s hard work in battles in the corner pays off for skilled players such as Ovechkin and Backstrom, who earn the benefit of more room to operate.

“There’s usually one or two guys in the corner, so if I can get in there and kick a puck loose for those guys, that’s only one or two guys that we’ve got to beat,” Brouwer said. “That just gives them more of an opportunity to be creative and score goals. That’s what they do.”

A Clark-like level of production still could happen for the 26-year-old. But even if he doesn’t get there and keeps contributing like he has early on, the Caps will be satisfied.

“It usually takes five guys to score a goal,” Boudreau said. “Only three guys, at the most, get credit for it.”

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