Laich and Brouwer not showing much chemistry together
(Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)
Adam Oates is not known for shaking things up. Understandably, he is fond of keeping superstars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom together at both even strength and on the power play. And it doesn’t look like he is going to break up the “third line” of Jason Chimera, Mikhail Grabovski and Joel Ward
anytime soon. But is it time to revisit the Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer pairing on the second line?
During even strength, with both Laich and Brouwer on the ice, Washington has seen just 44.3 percent of all shots attempts in its favor. In other words, the Capitals are not controlling puck possession when these two are on the ice together. Here is one reason why: too much dump and chase without a strong forecheck.
When Laich and Brouwer skate during even strength, they gain entry into the offensive zone by dumping the puck in the corner more than half the time but have generated just four shot attempts and zero goals from their efforts. That’s worse than when the top line of Ovechkin and Backstrom (12 shot attempts plus a goal) and the third line of Chimera, Grabovski and Ward (16 shot attempts and two goals scored) utilize dump and chase. Even more surprising is that the second line, anchored by Laich and Brower, dumps the puck in more often than the fourth line of Aaron Volpatti, Michael Latta and Tom Wilson (33 percent of their even-strength zone entries are dumped in).
Choosing to carry the puck into the zone is always a better option, especially now that Marcus Johansson is back at center. Brower and Laich have generated almost 0.7 shot attempts each time they have carried the puck into the zone, while Johansson’s carries have produced 0.5 when away from Ovechkin and Backstrom. In other words, having one of those three carry the puck into the zone would be much more effective than dumping the puck into the corner.
Granted, that’s easier said than done, but it is either that or wait for Oates to feel comfortable tampering with the only two scoring lines he has. Until then, expect Washington to again languish in the bottom third of the league in terms of puck possession.
Neil Greenberg, when he isn’t watching the games, analyzes advanced statistics in the NHL and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.