Saturday I caught up with Capitals forward Brooks Laich to get some of his thoughts as the season gets underway.
RLD: You guys have won a few games in a row here… starting to hit your stride at all? Brooks Laich: It’s nice to be above .500 and start distancing ourselves from .500. I don’t think anyone’s walking around here with a huge smile on their face. We’ve only won a couple one-goal hockey games… we had one lopsided game. I think there’s still room for improvement and I think there’s still a hunger for improvement amongst our guys, too. We keep working day-to-day, take it week-to-week, and we still think we have better hockey ahead of us.
RLD: Everyone talks about Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin, but there are also a lot of unknown offensive stars on this team as well… Laich: I think ‘Flash’ is a tremendous hockey player. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves because the spotlight goes to the first couple guys you mentioned. Also Mike Knuble opens up a lot of ice for other guys with a big body, who wins battles and gets them pucks. Eric Fehr had 21 goals last year, which basically went unnoticed. Jason Chimera skates as well as anyone in league, and I don’t think he is very easy to play against. I know from playing against him, that’s Jason’s a very tough player to play against. Our fourth line works as hard as anybody, and on the back end they move the puck and make it simple back there. I think throughout the whole lineup we have a very talented team… and obviously with the first guys you mentioned, that puts us over the edge.
RLD: When you sit on the bench and watch Ovechkin and Backstrom work their magic, is it an eye-opening experience, per se? Laich: I’ve seen so many times… for example, when D.J. King got here in the first game we played together, Ovie cut across the middle and shot back against the grain, D.J. said ‘Oh don’t do that, you’re gonna get killed.’ I said ‘No Kinger, that’s what he does and you can’t touch him.’ We’re so use to seeing him come down the wing, shoot the puck through three d-men and it goes in. You just stand up and raise your hand. Most new guys say ‘Holy man, did you see that?’ I’ve seen it for six years and you just get used to seeing such a wonderful talent. Pretty lucky to have a front row seat to see that every night… it’s pretty neat.
RLD: You guys have a couple young goalies… how confident are you in Neuvy and Varly? Laich: Neuvy has really come on strong. (Wednesday) he was our number one star; he won that game for us… made a breakaway save right at the end of the game. He’s very controlled, kicks his rebounds into the corner. And Varly was looking great in exhibition. Both those guys, they’re not coming in having to just win hockey games for us. They’re gonna come in and get their feet wet and just play solid and we’ll play solid defense in front of them, try to score some goals to give them a lead. I don’t think there should be a whole lot of pressure on them because they’re experienced beyond their age.
RLD: After last spring, are you guys playing with a chip on your shoulder? Laich: You could say a chip on your shoulder, but you want to make sure you don’t waste the precious opportunities that you have. Last year we thought we had a contending team, and it didn’t go our way… that leaves a very sour taste in your mouth. This year, I think guys are a lot more serious. We really have a chance at this thing, we believe we have a very good team. We can’t just coast through the regular season and then try to play playoff hockey. We have to work now for the next six or seven months to prepare ourselves for playoff hockey. We have a team that we feel can really make some noise in the playoffs.
RLD: What are your thoughts on the 24/7 series on HBO with the Penguins? Laich: I don’t know what to think about it yet, really. I think it’s great exposure for our players, organization, and our sport. I’ve played with some of these guys for five-to-six years and I think the world should know how good of hockey players they are, and how fun of people they are. That being said, if the cameras start interrupting us winning hockey games, or the business-as-usual attitude that we have around here… if they start interfering with the way we operate, I might take a different stance on the whole HBO series. We have a fan base that I think a lot of people should be aware of now. I think it’s a growing, deeply-rooted fan base now, and I think our players are going to be picture-perfect for that. It’ll be good entertainment.
RLD: Who are some of the characters in the room that will stand out during the HBO series? Laich: (Laughs)… Maybe Jason Chimera could jump out. Nick Backstrom will be very endearing. Obviously the cameras will be on Ovie a lot; they’ll see his goofy side behind the scenes that maybe everybody doesn’t get to see. Matt Bradley is very comical. The list goes on… Mike Knuble is edgy and different. Dave Steckel… I think Tomas Fleischmann will surprise some people too. We’ve been saying for years that our team should have a TV show. I think it could do really well because there’s a lot of comical things that go on. We’ll just see how good HBO is at editing, because there might be some stuff that they won’t be able to put on the series. I hope our guys have fun with it. I think it’ll be interesting and a fun experience for sure.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.