The struggles of Troy Brouwer have been a long-running subplot in our weekly stat snapshot series. With just two goals and one assist at 5-on-5, Brouwer’s production has been way below what had been expected for him, and his underlying stats have been among the lowest on the team. Indeed, the numbers have been quite unkind to Troy, and at times they have even endangered our friendship with the Brouwer Rangers.
Fehr scores on Friday. (Photo credit: Patrick McDermott)
Eric Fehr has rarely had an easy season in the NHL. Under Bruce Boudreau, the former 18th overall pick was often under-utilized, banished to the bottom-six or the press box. Late in his first stint with the Washington Capitals in 2011, Fehr suffered a serious shoulder injury, a problem that plagued him for nearly two years. Because of that, he struggled in his only season with his hometown Winnipeg Jets after being traded from Washington. Looking for a job after the NHL lockout, Caps general manager George McPhee decided to take another chance on Fehsie. The 28-year-old, for the most part, succeeded, notching 17 points in the shortened season.
Rather than settle in with a nice role on second or third line, however, Fehr was asked to try something he’s never done before: play center. He spent much of October at pivot, registering just one goal. The shift, Fehr admitted, was difficult. Playing in the middle requires you to be much more aware, along with increased defensive responsibilities and not having a set position on the ice. Fehr’s struggles were understandable. Playing center for the first time in not something you can adjust to in a few preseason games. After the experiment Fehr then spent two games on the first line in early November after Alex Ovechkin went down with an upper-body injury. He did well in that spot, picking up a few points that week.
“It’s a very unique season for me,” Fehr told me Friday night. “I knew coming there was a good chance I was going to play center, but it’s been a little bit different.”
Inexplicably, head coach Adam Oates then scratched him for the next nine games. He was allowed back in the lineup only when another player in the coach’s doghouse, Martin Erat, got sent to the press box after he requested a trade.
“He was ready to get back in and he’s provided a spark for us,” the coach said of Fehr. “He’s played good.”
On November 29, 2013, In Interview, By Chris Gordon
Al Koken shows off Fehr’s sticks during the Wednesday’s CSN broadcast.
Eric Fehr has bounced around the lineup a lot this season, all the way from the first line to the press box. Another thing undergoing constant shuffling: his stick.
“I’m still looking around, still looking for the one that’s gonna work for me,” he told me Wednesday. “I’ve been working on a few things.”
What’s curious, though, is the specific stick Fehr settled on: when he scored his first goal since October 10 on Wednesday, the 28-year-old was using Steve Oleksy‘s stick. A power forward and a stay-at-home defenseman don’t have much in common, of course, but Fehr liked Oleksy’ stick after a cursory test of his teammates’ weapons.
On November 27, 2013, In Game Recap, By Chris Gordon
Photo credit: Patrick McDermott
Blame Rachel Cohen for this.
[Note: This recap is Chanukah-themed tonight. Why? Because there’s literally no one on the Internet right now.]
Last week, there was only one way to describe the play of the Washington Capitals: shameful. After winning three straight, the Capitals allowed seven unanswered goals at Verizon Center, before showing some life late against Montreal. Saturday’s game, though, was markedly different. The Capitals still lost, but they put 50 shots on goal, Washington’s highest total since 2010. On the first night of Chanukah, the Caps looked to continue that output against the lowly Ottawa Senators. They did — at first.
It started with a sublime play by yelling person-cum-Jewish pun Michael Latta, who skated into the offensive zone, got tripped, and then pole vaulted over a Sens defender. The loose puck went to Eric Fehr, who unleashed a lovely wrist shot to put the Caps on the board. Ottawa tied it up less than a minute and a half later, however, when Bobby Ryan tipped one past Braden Holtby on the man-advantage. However, Marcus Johansson whacked in a loose puck in front on the power play just 38 seconds after the Sens tally, giving the Caps a 2-1 lead. BUT WAIT! A mere 47 seconds later, Brooks Laich backhanded home a loose puck in front. Four goals in under five minutes. Whew!
The second period was all Sens. Chris Philips put them within one with a blast on the power play, before Colin Greening tied the game at three.
In the final frame Mika Zibanejad added another PP tally. Ugh. The game looked hopeless until John Carlson tied it late. Prepare to cry, though, because just over a minute later Zach Smith beat Mike Green and Nate Schmidt to win the ballgame. Ryan added an empty netter. Sad face. Vodka. Sens edge Caps 6-4
After losing two in a row in kind of stunning fashion, Adam Oates has changed up his lines for Saturday’s big game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Martin Erat is expected to be a healthy scratch, and Eric Fehr will make his first appearance since November 2nd.
Johansson – Backstrom – Ovechkin
Fehr – Grabovski – Brouwer
Chimera – Laich – Ward
Volpatti – Latta – Wilson
Martin Erat is the third-strongest forward when measured by both possession and on-ice goal percentage. This will be his first healthy scratch of the season. For the record, Troy Brouwer is the team’s weakest forward in possession– kind of stunning for a second-line player– but his goal percentage is even (7 goals for, 7 goals against) thanks to the team-high save percentage his goalies offer when he’s on the ice: .956.
The incredibly productive third line of Chimera-Grabo-Ward has been broken up, promoting Grabo to 2C in time for a game against the team that bought him out over the summer. Brooks Laich takes his place at 3c.
Returning Eric Fehr to the lineup is a welcome change, but at the cost of Martin Erat is …odd.
Fehrsie looking resplendent at right wing. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
Martin Erat and Eric Fehr have both spent significant time this season stuck on the fourth line, a misuse of their considerable talent. But with Alex Ovechkin missing his second game due to an upper-body injury, both wingers now find themselves on Washington’s top trio, skating 20 minutes a night. In 120 minutes of play, the new first line of Erat, Nicklas Backstrom, and Fehr has been fantastic, registering three goals and nine points. For Nick, three of his five goals this year have come in the last two days.
So what’s the key to Nick’s newfound goal scoring ability, and the line’s success as a whole? Well, Ovechkin has generated the vast majority of the first line’s shots this season. Though they are improving, Johansson and Backstrom had the maddening tendency to pass, pass, pass early in the year. Without Ovi, has Backstrom been forced shoot the puck more, always an important factor in scoring goals? In short, no. When I asked him about it, Backstrom insisted that he wasn’t directing any more pucks toward the net than usual. A little late-night research backs him up. Nick has attempted three shots in each of the two games without Ovechkin, roughly in line with his normal pace. So, some nice shots and a bit of luck.
“Yeah, that’s just a coincidence,” Backstrom said with some sass.
Nevertheless, the temporary first line has been impressive. Erat and Fehr deserve credit for holding their own in a new and challenging position, each playing on their third different line this year. Fehr, especially, made a large jump, playing two total polar opposite roles in one week. Monday in Vancouver, he played 12 minutes as the gritty fourth line center. Saturday, he played almost twenty minutes as the first line right wing.
On October 12, 2013, In Game Recap, By Peter Hassett
Photo: Patrick Smith
Disaster game. The Capitals had just one win going into Saturday’s thing with Colorado, a shootout win over a reliable bottom-5 team. Despite that and the team’s myriad weaknesses, we had good feelings going into this one.
John Carlson started the game off with an own-goal, tipping in a centering pass from Alex Tanguay past Michal Neuvirth. Matt Duchene made it 2-0 for the Avs a few minutes later, roofing the puck after a duel with Karl Alzner.
Human baby Nate McKinnon scored his first NHL goal while the Caps were being penalized for being too manly.
Tanguay got a shorty early in the third period as the game descended into burn-the-tape territory, but soon after that Eric Fehr finally beat Varlamov with a quick shot set up by Jason Chimera. The glimmer of hope lasted all of 20 seconds before Jamie McGinn made it 5-1 for Colorado. That’s how it ended.
[Editor’s note: When Washington Capitals fan Amanda H. went to the Caps Season Ticket Holder party at Six Flags last year, she had Martin Erat sign a photo of Filip Forsberg. This year, she one-upped herself. We’ll let her explain.]
Martin Erat signs the toaster (Photo credit: @Komissarov95)
I had debated for a few days what I should get signed at the season ticket holder party. I have a ton of Caps stuff, but nothing really stood out to me, until about twenty minutes before I had to leave. Long forgotten due to the poor toast it makes (No, seriously it’s very bad toast, I have yet to find a setting that toasts most of the bread without burning the other half), my Capitals toaster sat on a shelf, not having been used in months.
Images of walking around an amusement park carrying a toaster danced in my head. It was too amusing to turn down. I have a suspicion those events might be slightly tedious so I felt like this might spice things up. At the very least it’d give me something to say to the players instead of just awkwardly standing in silence. I cleaned it up a little and tested to make sure the sharpie would actually stick. It did!
When my friend Alyssa and I arrived in the parking lot, I had a moment of doubt. Am I really going to go get a toaster signed? Why didn’t I clean it thoroughly beforehand? I figured that either way, this would be a great story and probably worth the effort. I went through security and the bag check. The guy checking my bag thought my toaster was pretty cool.
Sami, holding up her iPhone 4, took a front-facing photo of her three friends: Brenna (front row to the left), Zoe (second row to the left), and Danielle (second row to the right) as they rode the Superman rollercoaster. In the background, Caps players make silly faces. Braden Holtby looks apprehensive, Eric Fehr shows off his pearly whites, Tom Wilson gives an enthusiastic thumbs up, and little old Connor Carrick (who I trust was tall enough to ride this ride) manages to lean his head just above Fehr’s.
Study this photo. Look at it carefully. It has more layers than one of my website comp PSD’s (and no, I didn’t name the layers).
Danielle, who emailed us the group’s photos and kindly gave us permission to publish, was really excited. “It was really cool to see what happened to Sami’s photo,” Danielle wrote. “Because later on when we were visiting the players autograph tables, they knew exactly who we were from the roller coaster and mentioned that they saw the picture on Twitter.”
Tuesday was Zoe’s birthday. (Happy belated birthday, Zoe!) Danielle tells us that many players made a big deal about it.
The girls got autographs from Mike Green, Aaron Volpatti, Connor Carrick, John Carlson, Eric Fehr, Joel Ward, Marcus Johansson, and hahahabest Ovechkin.
Below are the rest of their photos from the night. Looks like a great time.