Brooks Laich is a versatile, valuable member of the Washington Capitals, so much so that he doesn’t need to score goals to help his team win.
That said, he went through a major scoring slump in the middle of this season. For nearly two months he struggled to put the puck in the net. He showed up early for practice and stayed late. It didn’t help, and he became even more frustrated.
“It sucked. It was no fun at all,” Laich said of scoring two goals in a 26-game span. “Part of my job on this team is produce goals and points, and when you’re not doing it, it feels like you’re not doing your job. You get disappointed with your effort.”
Not only has Laich ended his scoring struggles, but he also is back collecting goals in bunches again. This is Laich’s fifth full season in the NHL, and he has set a career high for the fifth time, surpassing last year’s total of 23.
For Laich, the best way out of his predicament wasn’t to do more; it was to focus on doing less.
“I just worked through it. I tried hard not to get frustrated, but just tried to stay calm. And I had a chat with Bruce [Boudreau],” Laich said. “We basically stripped down my game and got back to the things that made me successful in the past which is 1) skating and 2) competing and 3) going to the net. Those are the bread-and-butter aspects of my game. And when things aren’t going well I just try to focus on those things, and I got rewarded for it.”
In the past Laich has played all three forward positions and even filled in on defense in a pinch. He has been put on scoring lines and checking lines and energy lines, but this year his role has been more defined.
He’s spent a vast majority of the season on the second line, typically on the wing opposite Alexander Semin. Laich also has joined Mike Knuble as the guys who provide screens and stir up trouble in front of the net on the power play.
Laich might be able to net 30 goals this season, but he hasn’t left his roots as a grinder completely behind.
“During that stretch I thought I was playing reasonably well, but then when we looked at video it became evident that I wasn’t playing very well,” Laich said. “I wasn’t scoring goals for certain reasons. Sometimes things like that happen, and that’s why I had to get back to basics and focus on what has made me successful for the past 26 years.”