It doesn’t seem to matter which center Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau puts between Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr - the pair have worked well together dating to their days with the Hershey Bears.
But as the postseason beckons, both players are in a scoring funk, and more production from them would be a boon for a team with big expectations.
“It would be great for us to get a little more confidence,” Fehr said. “[Fleischmann] and myself have been getting a lot of opportunities the last month, but we haven’t been able to bury them. It feels good to contribute, and hopefully we can do that more going into the playoffs.”
Fleischmann was a breakout performer earlier this season, scoring at nearly a 30-goal pace in the first half of the season. But the 24-year-old forward from the Czech Republic missed about two weeks because of a minor case of mononucleosis, and it may have played a part in his slump.
When he returned in early January, Fleischmann had three goals in four games, and it appeared all was well. But in the 33 games since, Fleischmann has two goals and 10 points.
“I didn’t lose weight, but I lost my conditioning - what I had from the summer and what I had worked on for four or five months,” Fleischmann said. “I basically needed to get it back. Obviously, just laying at home for two weeks wasn’t easy, but I just tried to come back and play hard. I think I am back now to where I was before. I feel better.”
He has also had some bad luck with goals overturned or disallowed, but Fleischmann did collect his first point in 14 games Friday night against Buffalo. It was a great individual play - he dived to knock down a Sabres clearing attempt with his team on the power play, leading to the first of two goals by Sergei Fedorov.
“He made a tremendous play, and honest to God I wish he were getting rewarded more,” Boudreau said. “He’s doing all the things right.”
Fehr got off to a slow start this season, but an injury to Chris Clark opened up regular playing time, and for a while he flourished. Between Jan. 31 and Feb. 26, the 23-year-old from Manitoba had seven goals and 12 points in 13 games, starting to show the promise that made him a first-round pick in 2003.
Recently points have been harder to come by; he has two goals and an assist in the past 16 games. Fehr has continued to produce takeaways with his crafty defensive play, but he has been unable to finish the opportunities - which often come on passes from Fleischmann.
“This season seems to have had a lot of ups and downs for me,” Fehr said. “I’ve had some serious hot streaks, and I’ve had a lot of cold streaks. It is important to keep doing what you’re doing and work hard and not get upset. It is easy to get focused on the fact that you don’t have points in a lot of these games. But if you’re playing well, that is the important part as long as the team is winning.”
While Boudreau continues to tinker with his lineup, there is a chance Fleischmann and Fehr will be playing together on the third line. Most teams count on the top two lines for the bulk of their scoring, but the Caps can boast one of the deepest offenses in the league when guys like Fleischmann and Fehr are chipping in as well.
“I think we read off each other really well,” Fehr said. “I think we have the same mindset about what we want to do on the ice. We know the positions we’re going to be in. We play a similar style of game, although he’s a setup man and I am more of a shooter.”