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Posted at 4:13 PM ET, 02/ 2/2011

Brooks Laich wants more hunger

By Dan Steinberg

(By Jonathan Newton - TWP)

Brooks Laich sure does become extra quotable when the Caps aren't playing quite as well as they'd like to play.

And before anyone posts a comment like "more scoring less talking, please," bear in mind that Laich appeared to be about as happy as a piece of Chick-fil-A on Bruce Boudreau's dinner table when he was addressing the media on Wednesday. He certainly didn't seek out reporters and beg for a chance to answer questions about the team's offensive woes and his three-penalty night against Montreal.

I was just standing around, waiting to ask Laich an unrelated question. But he did seem to have an opinion on the team's current offensive challenges.

"We have to be hungry and desperate to score," he said. "To compete and fight in there. To do anything, whatever it takes to score. Myself included. I have to be more nasty around the front of the net, go to the net more and take a hack, take a whack, [get hit] in the face, whatever it is. Just compete, compete, compete. Don't stop. And be ferocious around the net. And if you keep doing that, eventually one's going to go in."

And Friday's trip to Tampa, pitting the Southeast's top two teams?

"I don't think we have to talk too much about it," Laich said. "I think there's too much talk going on and not enough action. As players, myself, I've got to be better. I'm looking forward to Friday's game. I have to be better. I have to produce offensively. I have to play well defensively. Last night I take three penalties; that slows down our team. So for myself, I'm looking forward to Friday. I just have to be better on the ice."

In case that wasn't enough, Laich had previously appeared on 106.7 The Fan, where he again singled one player out for criticism.

"Myself as a player, I'm supposed to score," he said. "That's my job. I'm a two-way player, but I'm supposed to score. And when you're not doing it, it gets frustrating. And you keep trying and you keep trying, and sometimes pucks don't bounce your way and they don't go in. And you feel like you're working hard, but are you working hard, are you working smart enough, are there more things you can do? At the end of the day, sometimes it just gets really frustrating. I think the effort is there, I think our guys are trying to score. Nobody likes to not score and have people talk about, oh, the Capitals can't score."

Danny Rouhier told Laich that the Montreal TV crew suggested that the Caps sometimes cruise. Laich didn't like that suggestion.

"At no point are we cruising," he said. "The only reason I'm in D.C. is to play hockey. That's the only thing on my mind, and that's the same with the rest of our guys and our coaching staff. This is our job, and we're expected to perform. And so if people say we're cruising, I take offense to that. People say we're not working as hard or whatever, come watch practice. Watch us work there."

By Dan Steinberg  | February 2, 2011; 4:13 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Thanks for the words Brookie. Right now, they're all words.

And how can we see EVERYONE working hard at practice when optional isn't there?

Posted by: jwash4472 | February 2, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

correction: (Brooksie)

Posted by: jwash4472 | February 2, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

"At no point are we cruising"

If last night's 2nd period is the Caps giving a full effort, they are toast.

Posted by: ThisGuy | February 2, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Is "hunger" the name of a true 2nd line center?

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | February 2, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

It's too bad you don't win games at practice.

Posted by: Almazar80 | February 2, 2011 9:50 PM | Report abuse

more scoring, less penalties, less talking

Posted by: philarmy | February 2, 2011 10:32 PM | Report abuse

I have heard a lot of comments about this season's Caps team not playing a full 60-minutes. The Montreal announcers (and other teams' announcers too) have intimated that the Caps cruise through large stretches of games.

I don't agree.

People mistake failure with lack of effort. The problem is not that the Caps players are dogging it. It's just that they are being asked to play a defensive system that goes completely against their skill-set. They aren't used to it, they don't like it, and - no matter how much effort they put into it - they can't play it.

The result is that they have to think about everything before they do it. Nothing comes naturally. Who was it that said, "You can't hit and think at the same time."? Well, the same goes for almost anything - including NHL hockey.

So as the frustration mounts, the pressure builds, and you get a team so psyched-out they can't see strait - let alone shoot strait.

They have only one option. Go back to the run-and-gun style! It may not work in the playoffs (although that's hardly clear), but it's what they know how to do. It's what they are comfortable doing.

A coach's job is to put his players in the best position to succeed. By that standard Washington's coaches have failed utterly this season.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | February 3, 2011 1:25 AM | Report abuse

@Kevin: Great post.

I've been calling it the "Square peg-Round hole Syndrome". The most important players on offense (Ovie, Semin, Backstrom) CAN'T play it, like you said. It's not a question of working hard, it's just not in their nature. I've been yelling at just about everyone who'll listen that they need to switch back, if for no other reason than to show themselves that they can still score.

Will they do it? Extremely doubtful. Everyone's caught up in this Canadian-style "Old Time Hockey" B.S., and it's not going to work for these players. Just because a bunch of analysts and pundits say you "can't win playoff games like that", then the whole organization has bought into it. It seems like a radical idea to switch back, but this style CLEARLY isn't working - so why not?

Posted by: drewsie | February 3, 2011 5:52 AM | Report abuse

Agree with Kevin as well, and i've said it on many posts. They Caps management panicked after last years lost, and implemented a style/system that doesn't fit the players. They perceived 'cruising' is really hesitancy and tentativeness, because they are now thinking instead of reacting.

Go back to the run and gun, and have fun. That's what this team was built for. They are playing better D and the PK is fantastic. Believe in yourselves. I hope Ted reads these posts and has an 'ah ha' moment. What's his email anyway?

They are not as good as many of the 'top' teams in the east, and will lose in the playoffs again - unless they revert to their winning system. Do something Ted, now!

Posted by: gs12 | February 3, 2011 6:46 AM | Report abuse

I think Thomas Jefferson was the one that said "You can't hit and think at the same time." It's one of his most memorable quotes.

Posted by: mike8 | February 3, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

When the caps got bounced in Game 7 for the 3rd straight year, two themes developed: (1) the regular season doesn't matter, and (2) they need to change their style to win in the playoffs. Both are proving to be untrue.

We are discovering that the regular season matters very much. One more 10 game slide and we won't have to worry about an early exit in the playoffs this year. There won't be any playoffs.

Kevin is spot on concerning style. The coaching staff, and perhaps GMGM, have failed this team by pursuing a strategy that is not suited to its players. The caps have not been knocked out of the playoffs in anything other than a Game 7 in the last 3 seasons. In 2 series they fought back from 1-3 deficits, winning one such series.

The early playoff exits have not resulted from playing the wrong style. They have resulted from choking. So far, the caps have simply failed to close the deal when it really mattered. Experience either cures that or it doesn’t. A change in style won't cure it. In fact, by changing styles they are setting themselves up to choke even worse, because when the pressure is on they will be trying to do something that doesn’t come natural. Free the offense!

Posted by: KKFLine | February 3, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse

If you don't say something about Snyder you're a weenie and he wins.

Posted by: markfromark | February 3, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Agreed This Guy. If that second period in Montreal is representative of not cruising, then they might as well miss the playoffs, because they sure as hell won't be going anywhere.

Posted by: hackeynut00 | February 3, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Also I'm disappointed that the only fat joke against Bruce was done by Dan himself. Brooks talks about hunger and we can't fit in a few hot dog mustard jokes? What have we become?

Posted by: hackeynut00 | February 3, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

He should shut his mouth to the press. All important things to be said in locker room, but that guy needs to step up his game big time and shouldn't be saying these things in public until he does.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | February 3, 2011 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Agreed. Brooks is having a terrible year and is on track to be worse in every category than he was last year. You used to be able to count on 100% effort from Almost every night. This year, not so much.

Posted by: hackeynut00 | February 3, 2011 10:05 AM | Report abuse

You might not be cruising in practice but when your guys are saying that you may have sat back in the second period then that = crusing.

Oh and stay out of the box knucklehead. You were a big reason we never got going in this game and we were killing 3 of your penalties.

I love ya Brooks, love your passion for this team. No need to be a running commentary for the Post or the moronic Junkies on 106.7.

Posted by: blanknerc | February 3, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Laich had a career year in 2009 and is regressing to the mean. He is not going to be a 25 goal scorer regularly as he was not before last season.

That said, I don't question his effort and no doubt he honestly believes that the other players want to win as badly as he does.

The problem is that guys like Alexander Semin and Mike Green do go through periods during games where they seem almost detached from the action.

They don't keep their legs going to be part of the flow and that causes odd man rushes and sequences where there are 3 or 4 Capitals trying to get the puck out of the defensive zone against 5 players from another team.

I don't think Jeff Schultz takes time off but he is a turnover machine. If you ever watch him in single action in the defensive zone there are SO MANY pucks that go on and off his stick that he fails to get cleared out of the zone.

He is tall and has range but again is a below average stickman and that has cost the team in crunch time more than a time or two this season and in years past.

So, some of this may be cruising by individuals, but it is also partly a case of a few of the players with clear flaws in their games that get exploited.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | February 3, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Most people on these boards give way to much lip service and blame to this new "magical" defensive system that has our players thinking instead of reacting and thus cannot score anymore. Thats all BS. The truth of it is, and the players have also said this, is that they havent really changed their offensive system much. The reason they are giving up less goals is the PK (kudos to Bruce for turning that around) and the goalies are better. The games I watch, we still give up the same number of quality chances. I would also add that we have had less man-games from Poti and Sloane and this helps the defensive stats also. The reason we don't score as much is the PP and lack of a dangerous 2nd line. Teams can focus all of their defensive efforts on Ovi-Backstrom-whoever combo and take their chances with the other lines and this year that has worked out for our opponents, Last year, several players on the 2nd and 3rd lines had career years, this year, not so much. The PP needs work but really just needs to become more basic, more shots from the point and more traffic in front.

Posted by: 30yrcapsfan | February 3, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse


It's not BS, it's the truth. BB and some of the players have even mentioned the fact that they play a more passive style forecheck than last year. The hallmark of a BB team (NHL or AHL) is their ability to apply pressure on all 200 feet of the ice, not just in the neutral zone - which is where they've instituted a semi-trap (employing 3 skaters in the neutral zone). His style, he's said it himself, employs a high-pressure, fluid, free-flowing strategy. The current iteration is NOT that.

I agree, the lack of PP scoring makes up for a good bit of the lack of offensive production. But the "more traffic/crash the net/net presence/blah/blah" mindset is what people WANT them to do, not what the top offensive players on this team do by nature. So why try to make them? It's not BS, it's the truth.

GMGM gave the ol' "if you knew so much about the game you'd be in it" quote, which is understandable. But you don't have to know a whole lot to be able to see that this team is NOT acting the same or producing what it did the last few years.

Posted by: drewsie | February 3, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Fans watching a team CAN gain enough insight to see what is wrong.

What fans usually cannot do is apply enough knowledge about personnel around the NHL to know exactly who the team needs to trade for or acquire in free agency to add that changes the mix and produces the results we all want to see.

So, in that vein we are posting what we see that is wrong with how the team is playing. It is the same commentary that is made by former NHL coaches and players who are on the major networks in Canada and regularly view the team on the ice.

If we assume for a moment that McPhee is right about the average fan, then how does he explain the insight/commentary from former NHL GMs and coaches who express similar thoughts?

Is it all a coincidence?

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | February 3, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

If anyone watched the World Cup and followed Brazil, you can draw some parallels to the Capitals.

Brazil has some of the best talent in the world for soccer. They didnt win in the last cup, so they decided to alter their up tempo wide open and agressive game for a defensive minded system. Look where it got Brazil.

The Caps needed to improve their PK to go further in the playoffs and perhaps win the cup. Their defense was adequate.

Its very frustrating watching our two top lines dump the puck and cycle it along the boards. It's as if we have 4 checking/grinding lines out there.

Posted by: theAnswerIs42 | February 3, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Great article about the defensive style creeping back into the game...

Posted by: theAnswerIs42 | February 3, 2011 5:21 PM | Report abuse

So, Brooks, come watch how hard you practice? You mean, at all of those optional practices Bruce has? Or the mandatory practices where some players are given days off? Does this team EVER all practice together at the same time? Really? Sure doesn't look like it, judging from the performance on the ice.

Posted by: Awesome1 | February 3, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

So, defensive systems don't work? I think they told Mike Modano that also. Oh and Steve Yzerman. And countless other guys in the history of the NHL.
They CAN play it and if they expect to progress past teams like Montreal and Pitts they dam well better play it.
Oh wah, wah, wah (say it like a baby would) I can't play defense - I just want to cherry-pick and score goals and be cool.
They're supposed to break you of those habits in the minors.

Oh yeah,an NHL quality #2 center sure would help....

Posted by: marksman37 | February 4, 2011 2:35 AM | Report abuse

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