The Washington Capitals made a handful of bold moves in the off-season. One of them was giving up a first round pick on draft day to pry Troy Brouwer from Chicago. The Caps acquired Brouwer not only for a boost to its secondary scoring, but for his physicality as well.
Through Monday’s action, Brouwer is ranked third in the NHL in hits (54); last year he finished fifth in the league with 262 hits. Aside from Alex Ovechkin and his rambunctious style of play, the Capitals have not had a physical presence like Brouwer’s in a long time.
“It’s something we haven’t had,” Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau said of Brouwer’s physicality.
Capitals forward Brooks Laich added, “He’s taken our team to a new physical level. He’s a big guy and always plays through people – he doesn’t turn away and doesn’t stop.”
Though playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Ovechkin for most of this season, Brouwer didn’t get off to the start he would have liked offensively, as he scored just one goal in the month of October. However, Brouwer has three in six games this month and is starting to gel nicely with his team.
“I had a little bit of a slow start,” Brouwer said. “I was too worried about being a physical presence and wasn’t contributing offensively like I should be. I’ve been a bit more comfortable and getting a few more points now, so it feels like I’m picking my game up right now.”
Boudreau added, “We had a meeting (Monday) and he’s starting to feel more comfortable in his role and understands it,” Boudreau said. “I expect more from him even in the future now.”
Brouwer, 26, scored 39 goals in his final two seasons in Chicago. The 6-foot-3 power forward mentioned that the move from Chicago to Washington was a bit easier, given his role was similar with a comparable Blackhawks lineup.
“We were a big puck possession team in Chicago and I had a chance to play with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. That just gives you a little more ease when you play Ovechkin and Backstrom,” Brouwer said. “Being able to play with Toews and Kane in Chicago makes it easier to make that transition, because you’re not just worried about playing with those guys; you can just settle in and play hockey.”
Along with his physical and goal-scoring potential, Brouwer’s playoff (and Cup-winning) experience with the Blackhawks was another reason the Capitals were attracted to him. The Caps are aiming high this year and going for the Stanley Cup, something the franchise has yet to win.
“He knows what it takes to win,” Capitals forward Mike Knuble said. “He’s a young player with (a Cup) and fits in with our core at the same age. When we’re on the road, he talks about it a little bit and maybe that can inspire our guys to get what he has.”
Photo credit: Chris Gordon