Tag Archives: Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera: New York’s Worst Nightmare

As the focus of the “Friday the 13th” series, Jason Voorhees was the stuff of nightmares as he terrorized co-eds and moviegoers for decades.

Much to the New York Rangers’ chagrin, they have their own personal Jason who constantly haunts their dreams. Except he brandishes a hockey stick instead of a machete, dons a normal hockey helmet as opposed to a goalie mask and sprints instead of lumbers.

“We were joking about that in the intermission that this must be his team,” Troy Brouwer said of the Jason in question, Jason Chimera, after the Washington Capitals’ 2-1 win over the Rangers in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Wednesday.

Chimera’s second-period goal – his seventh-career playoff goal, third of the series and fifth in 11 postseason games against New York dating back to last season – ultimately became the game-winner Wednesday (the fourth of his postseason career, three of which have come against the Rangers) and he scored it in what is now becoming patented fashion: “those backdoor tap-ins” as Brouwer described them. Much like his double-overtime game-winning goal in Game 4 of last season’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Chimera crashed the net and was the benefactor of a fortunate bounce as Nicklas Backstrom conveniently tipped John Carlson’s shot right to Chimera, who only had to tap the puck into the empty net to give Washington a 2-0 lead.

“It’s nice to get those goals,” Chimera said. “It sounds corny, but that’s where you’ve got to go to score goals in the playoffs.”

There might not be a player who looks as genuinely surprised when he scores as Chimera does, but while his heroics have been magnified by the high-pressure situations of the postseason, he has had a penchant for scoring timely goals all season. Fifteen of Chimera’s 24 combined goals between the regular season and postseason have either lifted the Caps into a tie or broken one (not to mention that Chimera only had 28 regular season and postseason goals during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons combined). Also, two of Chimera’s four goals this postseason have given Washington two of its three two-goal leads.

Yet, Chimera did not earn a full-time job in the NHL by scoring goals; it was his intangibles – a hard-working ethos, good size and, most notably, his speed – that allowed him to make an impact. It was Chimera’s second gear that put the Caps on the power play only 73 seconds into the game when he blew by Anton Stralman, who had no choice but to drag Chimera down. Alex Ovechkin scored 15 seconds later.

“He’s been very good right from the start of the year,” head coach Dale Hunter said. “He’s got great speed and a big desire to win. That line, with Chimmer and [Backstrom] and [Alexander Semin] had a big game tonight. Chimmer was working his tail off killing penalties also, so he got more minutes.”

The second line of Chimera, Backstrom and Semin has been productive throughout the postseason; Wednesday, they combined for eight shots (Chimera had a team-high five) and three points. Chimera’s grinding game combined with Backstrom and Semin’s skill has made them a dangerous trio.

“He’s fast out there,” Backstrom said of his linemate. “Looks like he’s just gonna chip the puck and then he’s skating into it. It’s fun to play with him. He has a lot of speed and he’s creating a lot.”

Chimera may be 33 years old and have more hair on his chin than on the top of his head, but he said Wednesday that this season has re-energized him. And like Voorhees, that is just plain scary.

“I’ve been feeling good all year,” he said. “I feel young.”

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Capitals Look To Build On Record-Setting Defensive Performance

Perhaps one of the more demoralizing statistics from the Washington Capitals’ 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series Saturday was that they allowed three goals on a paltry 14 shots.

Yet, lost in that same stat is that those 14 shots set a postseason franchise record for fewest shots allowed in a road game, breaking the 27-year-old record of 15 set in April 1985 against the New York Islanders. While the Caps do not want to completely replicate Saturday’s performance, that is one trend that they want to continue.

“They were limited [in their scoring chances],” Joel Ward said Monday after the Caps’ morning skate at Madison Square Garden. “They pride themselves on turnovers and I thought we limited ourselves on not giving up too many chances on the turnovers.”

The Rangers’ three goals Saturday all came from the high slot down due to some defensive breakdowns, but other than that, a look at the shot chart shows that the Caps did a great job in holding most of the Rangers’ shots to areas above the circles.

“We were coming back,” Troy Brouwer said when asked what allowed the Caps to keep the Rangers to the outside. “We were making sure we were in shooting lanes. If we weren’t blocking shots, we were making them shoot wide. We were clearing out rebounds in front. As long as we continue to play solid defensively, I think we’re gonna limit as many shots as we can.”

Several Caps spoke of a “feeling out process” when describing the flow (or lack thereof) Saturday as both teams were trying to figure the other out. Once that finally happened, the Caps realized that the Rangers play a style of game very similar to their own  – one where offense is created from defense –  which helped them strategically.

“These guys, they’ve got some really good skill,” Karl Alzner said. “They like to make nice plays, they cycle. they hold onto the puck. They’re similar to us where they like to wait for their opportunity and then strike.”

In need of a win in Game 2 Monday, the Caps will look to get scoring chances of their own, but will also need to continue to focus on limiting the Rangers’ opportunities and learning from Saturday’s momentary defensive lapses.

“Coaches always want perfect,” head coach Dale Hunter said. “We worked hard. We made some mistakes, but hockey is a game of mistakes. It’s what you do after.”

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Capitals Plan To Counteract Bruins’ Toughness With Combination Of Fight, Flight

The Boston Bruins are a reflection of the city they inhabit. Boston has been known historically as a blue-collar town, one that is more spit than shine. The Bruins are working class heroes, using brute strength and force to make life miserable for their opponents.

The Washington Capitals are perfectly aware of the Bruins’ overall toughness and as they prepare for their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series, they know they have to find a way to counteract it.

“You can’t take penalties, definitely,” head coach Dale Hunter. “In history, come playoff time, there’s not a lot of fighting. It’s more hitting and playing hard. Boston finishes their checks just like we do and it’s gonna be hard-hitting, but that’s part of the game. Fighting is part of hockey, but it doesn’t seem to happen as much in the playoffs.”

“We’ve gotta be disciplined,” he continued. “It’s playoff hockey. You’ve gotta keep your emotions intact. It’s tough for a player.”

The Bruins led the NHL with 65 major penalties – 61 of which were fighting majors – and their 1,101 total penalty minutes were third-highest in the league. Meanwhile, the Caps were one of the league’s more disciplined teams with only 767 penalty minutes, seventh-fewest in the NHL (not to mention only 26 fights). Yet, Boston, which employs three of the league’s toughest players in Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton as selected by their peers as well as a shift-disturber in Brad Marchand, does not have to resort to such tactics to intimidate its opponents. The Bruins throw their collective weight around in the dirty areas to weaken their opponents physically and skirmish after almost every blown whistle in an attempt to sucker the opposition in mentally.

Most of the extracurricular activities take place in front of the crease, where Lucic makes his presence felt more often than not. The Caps, however, may have an advantage in that regard as Braden Holtby, known to be very aggressive when it comes to protecting his crease, will likely start throughout the series.

“It’s the type of game I like to play,” Holtby said. “It gets me more into the game. I have a lot more fun playing a game like that. It feels more like it’s a real competition. I’m not going to go looking for it by any means, but I think that’s what brings out the best of my abilities and a lot of the guys on our team. If someone challenges us, it’s raising your game. We’re hockey players. We’re meant to [rise up] for challenges.”

Elsewhere inside the Washington locker room, it seems that the consensus regarding how to neutralize Boston’s toughness is trying to find a balance between inciting physical play and retaliating against it.

“Let them take penalties,” Jason Chimera said. “We’re gonna play hard between the whistles and we’re gonna try and stay out of that crap after the whistle. It’s one of those things that if they’re gonna take penalties after the whistle, let them take it. We’ll take advantage of the power play. That’s the mindset you’ve gotta have. The series is too tight and too short to have those stupid penalties after the whistle, so we’re gonna try to stay away from that.”

While Chimera might not want to get involved in post-whistle scrums, Karl Alzner feels that the Caps need to prove that two can play that game.

“You’ve gotta be smart,” he said. “You’ve gotta give the first shot and then take the one from them and after that, just skate away. Really, that’s more frustrating than anything, when you go and get a guy and they just skate away from you and you’re the one in the box. It’s not very fun. There are guys on that team you can definitely mess with. You’ve just gotta be smart about it, but you can’t let them go and have an easy series. You’ve gotta be tough on them.”

Either way, Washington knows it is in for a tough test against Boston. The Bruins’ intimidating presence might be in the back of the Caps’ collective minds, but all that they can do is play their game.

“You just play,” Troy Brouwer said. “You could see how Vancouver got caught up in it last year [in the Stanley Cup Final]. It’s just the style of game they play. They try and bring you in. We’ve got some guys that will push back. We’re not going to lay over by any means.”

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Capitals’ Secondary Scoring Goes Missing Again During Pivotal Stretch

Over the last two weeks, Alex Ovechkin has buoyed the Washington Capitals with a goal-scoring stretch that has been described as vintage, classic or any other available synonym that describes nostalgia.

Yet, while Ovechkin’s current streak of nine goals in eight games has mesmerized the masses, it has also served to mask the complete lack of secondary scoring that the Caps have received lately. Ovechkin’s nine goals in eight games have added up to about 40 percent of Washington’s total goals in that span (9/22). In a smaller sample, only four players have scored goals in the last four games: Ovechkin, Jason Chimera (who is the Caps’ second-most active goal scorer lately with three goals in five games), Mathieu Perreault and Alexander Semin. No defenseman has scored since March 13.

A look at the missing offense from complementary players is more shocking and troubling when the numbers are presented:

  • Troy Brouwer: three goals in his last 28 games; none since March 6.
  • Marcus Johansson: three goals in his last 26 games; none since March 8.
  • Dennis Wideman: no goals in his last 26 games: one goal since returning from first All-Star Game January 31.
  • John Carlson: two goals in his last 23 games: none since February 22.
  • Mike Green: no goals, one assist in 17 games since returning from injury February 18.
  • Brooks Laich: four goals in his last 17 games; none in his last six games since scoring three in his previous four.
  • Mike Knuble: three goals in his last 10 games; none in his last four games since scoring three in his previous four.

That, however, does not mean that these players have not had their chances. The aforementioned players accounted for 23 of Washington’s 45 shots during Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, but as has become almost routine lately, none of them could capitalize.

Coincidentally, this is not the first time this season that the Caps’ most important role players have gone missing at the same time that Ovechkin has heated up. If the whole is only as good as the sum of its parts, then the Caps are currently incomplete.

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Righting The Sinking Ship

The beauty of a sinking ship is that it goes under slowly. For months, the Washington Capitals have been gradually submerging, gasping for air as what once was a proud vessel started to take water.

Prior to Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it felt like the Caps were finally starting to sink. Three consecutive losses in three different fashions – a blowout loss, an admirable effort in defeat and a two-goal lead gone awry – seemed to be the team’s last breath before drowning. Yet, as was said before, a sinking ship sinks slowly, and the Caps were able to climb for higher ground in a 3-2 overtime victory.

Just when Washington needed saving, the five-game homestand was rescued by two late-game, 3-2 comebacks completed by a Russian life preserver named Alex Ovechkin, What could have easily been a pointless homestand ended with five vital points.

“We felt coming into this game that it was going to be our season,” Troy Brouwer said. “If we could get two points tonight, it puts us in a good spot to contend for a playoff spot, but if we weren’t able to pick up these two points, we’d be on the outside looking in and in a real tough place to get back in.”

Washington may be treading water, but so are several of the teams around them. Despite all of their recent struggles, the Caps are only two points behind the Florida Panthers for the Southeast Division lead. The Caps also helped their own cause Thursday by moving one more point ahead of the Lightning. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Sabres are keeping their heads above water as well, but are still two points behind the Caps even after winning seven of 10. Even the Toronto Maple Leafs, losers of eight of 10, are still hanging on for dear life.

The Caps, however, can swim away from those teams with just one string of good luck. That will not be easy as treacherous waters lie ahead as six of the Caps’ next seven games are on the unforgiving road. While recent history has shown that Washington’s lack of success on the road is worthy of a distress call, the Caps have an opportunity to not only salvage the ship, but also to right it.

“We keep telling ourselves we are lucky to be in it, but we are in it,” Karl Alzner said. “We’ve got to take advantage of these games that we’re playing against some division rivalries and teams that are close to us. It’s a nice feeling knowing that we are still right there.”

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When Mistakes Become Habits

A mistake is a misunderstanding, a misconception proceeding from insufficient knowledge.  Yet, when a mistake is repeated, it is no longer a mistake. Instead, it becomes a habit, something that becomes a regular tendency.

The Washington Capitals were making mistakes, but after yet another disappointing performance Tuesday in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, those same mistakes have now become second-nature.

Turnovers at the blue line; ill-advised pinching; porous defense. Lamenting over the same mistakes – if they can be called that at this point – has become tiresome not only to those who follow the Caps closely, but also to the Caps themselves.

“They seem to be the death of us every night,” Troy Brouwer said, adding that “LIMIT TURNOVERS” is written on the whiteboard where the Caps list their keys to games, advice they are apparently not heeding.

The aforementioned problems are far from the only ones. Washington has relied on average goaltending lately (minus a few exceptions) and considering the team’s recent offensive struggles (the Caps scored three goals Tuesday, which equaled the number of goals that they had scored in their previous three games combined), anything less than stellar is detrimental. All of these problems are the ingredients of a lethal combination that could ultimately kill Washington’s postseason aspirations.

“Those are the plays that cost you playoff series, don’t let you get into the playoffs,” Dennis Wideman – one of Tuesday’s biggest offenders – said.

Correcting mistakes is not particularly difficult, but breaking habits is hard to do. The problem with habits is that one always seems to revert back to them while attempting to correct them. Unfortunately for Washington, with 16 games left, it simply does not have the luxury of time.

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Capitals’ Self-Criticism More Poignant Than Anything Else

After Tuesday’s thrilling come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Islanders, Brooks Laich commented on how one game can ultimately be the difference in a season.

“Maybe you look back 20 games from now and it could be a game that sways the season,” he said.

What Laich did not account for, however, is that something that sways can swing both forwards and backwards and the latter happened Friday in the Washington Capitals’ 5-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

“It’s tough,” Laich said three days after the aforementioned statement. “You don’t want to wake up in the morning and see that you’re not in the playoffs. Sometimes, you’re gonna lose hockey games. That’s the way it goes.”

To put it bluntly, the Caps were outclassed and outperformed by a team that had not only entered Friday’s game losers of four straight, but had also played the night before. That is not to say that Washington did not have its chances, but it did not take advantage of them and did not respond or recover when New Jersey scored three goals on seven shots in the first period.

A three-game winning streak temporarily masked the Caps’ deficiencies, but there was no hiding their struggles Friday. Special teams play is at the forefront; Washington’s power play is 5/46 since February 1, having allowed four shorthanded goals in that same span, including one Friday (not to mention that the Caps have allowed a combined four goals on 10 shots in their last two first periods). The Caps, as has been an issue throughout the season, cannot cleanly break out of the defensive zone, instead botching clearing attempts and getting pinned inside. When the Caps do finally get a chance to attack, they turnover the puck to an insane degree (partially because they are being too cute and looking for the perfect play), which leads to odd-man rushes on the other end.

Words have been wasted on Washington’s ineptitude all season long, but those same words are more poignant when coming from the Caps themselves.

“I don’t think we worked very hard in the third period,” Troy Brouwer said. “I thought we packed it in. We looked like a real timid, beaten down hockey team. We have to address that and make sure there is no quit in us, ever.”

“This was an embarrassing game,” Jeff Halpern said.. “We were terrible. [New Jersey] seemed to turn it up and we had absolutely no response.”

If there is a more pointed indictment of the idea that this team – one that is currently mired in a tight race to even qualify for the postseason – as currently constructed can be successful, then one might be hard-pressed to find it. When two players question their own team’s drive and determination, there is nothing left to be said.

Friday was a wasted opportunity for the Caps to gain ground on the teams in front of them and the loss of a game in hand that means nothing now. That is, until the Caps look back 18 games from now at a game that could sway the season.

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