|Capitals forward Donald Brashear is happy for the
opportunity to provide veteran leadership to a
Washington team with young, dynamic players.
Donald Brashear video highlights
Perhaps that's why the 6-foot-3, 239-pound veteran initially frowned upon the League's strict enforcement of the rule book immediately following the lockout. Today, however, he is once again enjoying life as that chiseled bundle of energy for the Washington Capitals.
"It seems like they are letting some more stuff go, which is good for the game," Brashear told NHL.com. "After the lockout, it was a little crazy. You couldn't even lift a stick from behind without being sent to the box. Players are a lot better today and guys realize you have to keep the sticks down, so it was a lesson learned. I feel after the League comes out with a rule, the officials will make certain it is called, but it'll eventually loosen up because you certainly want to keep the entertainment value out there. Let's face it, checking and hitting will always be a part of the game. But I understand there's got to be some limitations."
As has been the case in each of his 14 seasons in the NHL, Brashear pulls no punches. For the first time in his career, in fact, Brashear has worn the 'A' on his jersey the entire season, and has done so with a sense of pride and leadership.
"It just shows I'm doing something good out there and that I can be a leader for this team," Brashear said. "I'm learning and trying to do more each game. In the playoffs, you tend to be a little more cautious once a series starts, but you still have to establish yourself as a physical player. For a guy like myself, that's sometimes hard to do because when the ref sees me, he immediately looks in my direction. But if I'm chasing down a guy and looking to finish a check, I am still going to hit him hard. If I'm out there with smaller guys, I know I'll be the one getting all the looks but that's OK. I'll continue to play the way I know how."
Against the Philadelphia Flyers in the quarterfinal round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Brashear has been a mentor to linemates Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr, who are each making their initial appearance in the NHL postseason.
"I just remind them to be aggressive because if you don't throw the body, then you are prone to getting hit yourself," Brashear said. "The pace is higher in the playoffs, but most of the young guys have had experience playing under (coach Bruce Boudreau) and were successful. Now it's just a matter of incorporating what they learned at this level."
Gordon (6-0, 201) and Fehr (6-4, 212) have enjoyed playing alongside him. While the Brashear-Gordon-Fehr line has combined for two goals and one assist while averaging just over 10 minutes a game, it should also be noted that not one player has been sent to the penalty box. The series resumes tonight for Game 6 at Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.
"He has lots of experience out there and has always been a big physical presence," Gordon said. "Our line just goes out there to be energetic and do whatever we can to help the team win. We try to get pucks to the net, get in low on the forecheck and try to play a simple game. That's what we need to do in order to be effective."
Fehr realizes his line must make the most of every minute on the ice.
"We understand that we aren't going to get a lot of playing time, so our mindset is to go out there, create energy, be physical and put some pressure on their defense," Fehr said. "Don's been like a big brother and we talk a lot about the game. He has made me feel comfortable and has helped me out by being a big, physical presence. He'll always remind me to play big, and I just follow his lead. As a unit, we've been working hard and protecting the puck well. I think we cycle very well and have done as much as we can to help the team."
Boudreau certainly appreciates Brashear's excited approach to the game.
"Hopefully, people will look at him more as a player than just a guy who goes out there and fights," Boudreau said. "He's been a very tough guy throughout his career but he can play, is a great forechecker and good presence out there. Brash's line has created a lot of energy. It just goes to show you that the so-called energy-line or fourth-line guys are just as important as the other guys."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org