Side-by-Side Slumps

On paper, both Brooks Laich and Brendan Morrison have had tremendous starts to the year, serving as two of many offensive weapons for the high-octane Capitals. After all, they have admirable numbers through just over half a season. Laich has 31 points (11G, 20A) through 44 games and is on pace to surpass his career high in assists, while Morrison's 26 points (10G, 16A) during the same span is just 5 points shy of his offense for all of last season. 

But numbers don't tell the whole tale, and both Laich and Morrison have been struggling offensively of late.

The team can, as we've seen, put up big numbers regardless of whether everyone's firing at the same level - but it's still troubling when two of your top forwards undergo almost identical droughts. In fact, both players saw a noticeable dip in their numbers since the last blowout win by the Caps - December 5, an 8-2 drubbing of the Philadelphia Flyers. Laich picked up a goal in the win, Morrison an assist.

Since then, however, the drop-off has been pretty dramatic:

Brooks Laich GP G A P +/- PIM SOG
Oct 1 - Dec 5 29 10 15 25 5 12 82
Since Dec 5 15 1 5 6 -2 6 31
Brendan Morrison GP G A P +/- PIM SOG
Oct 1 - Dec 5 29 9 14 23 12 20 42
Since Dec 5 15 1 2 3 0 6 22

 

Impressive numbers to start the season, less than impressive in the last third. Laich had points in 16 of the first 29 games, 7 of which were multi-point performances. In the last 15 games, however, he's had points in just 5 - and only once did he get more than one point in a single game. As for Morrison, he was only held off the scoresheet 11 times through 29 games and never went more than 2 games without at least a point. Since December 5, though, he has points in just 3 games, sandwiched around a 4-game and 6-game drought.

It's hard to say exactly why they're mired in their respective slumps. Despite falling off around the same time, they play inherently different games - Laich, more of a "finesse grinder" who crashes the net; Morrison, a playmaker with great vision and speed. 

One thing that is noticeable in Laich's case is the decrease in shots per game. In the first 29 games, his SOG total had hit 82 - that's a rate of about 2.83 shots per game. He put at least 3 shots on net in 16 different games during that early stretch. Since then, it's dropped to around 2.07 shots per game, and only three times in his last 15 games has he cracked the 3-shot mark.

Morrison's a little trickier to figure out. After defying expectations and coming out of the gate as one of the pleasant surprises of the season, he's stalled and seen his linemates - and ice time - fluctuate game by game. And maybe that's the problem. Maybe all Morrison needs is a little consistency to his game, the same linemates night in and night out to allow him to build chemistry. It's no surprise that he plays well with Mike Knuble, a former teammate two times over - now he just needs to find some new friends to play with.

Whatever the reason, there are signs that their matching slumps are coming to an end. Each picked up an assist in the latest rout against Atlanta. Laich has points in two of his last three and is part of the Flash-as-center experiment, filling out a line that could provide a deadly second attack. Meanwhile Morrison's found himself on a line with newcomer Chimera - someone whose speed and grit could mesh well with his playmaking ability once Chimera acclimates himself to the new system. 

And the reality is that it's nothing to panic about - yet. The team's not exactly hurting for goal-scoring while they await a return to form for Monsieurs Laich and Morrison. They'll regain their scoring touch eventually, and the team's got the personnel to carry them through this rough stretch - just another reason to appreciate this team's depth.

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