Eric Brewer discovering his scoring touch early on in the season for Lightning
The National Hockey League’s most interesting stat line just might belong to Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer.
He is tied for second on the team with three goals on just four shots, and ranks second among all league defensemen in shooting percentage behind Los Angeles Kings blueliner Rob Scuderi, whose one goal this season has come on the only shot he’s attempted throughout his team’s five games played on the year.
It is also worth noting, too, that Brewer had only one goal all of last season, during which he was just one of three Lightning players to appear in all 82 games.
So, the question is, how does a player known more for his shutdown abilities and less for his knack for scoring triple his goal output in 76 less games?
“A lot of good screens,” Brewer said. “I’ve had a lot of good open looks, my timing has been a bit better, and really, I’ve just tried to shoot the puck when I’m open and make it a point not to try and do too much to the point where I over-handle it.”
Brewer, 33, also seems to be doing more with less.
Between an injury to Victor Hedman, the absence of Mattias Ohlund in the lineup and without a clear replacement for Mike Lundin on the blue line following his departure, Brewer was often overtaxed last season and relied on to carry out more responsibilities than he could handle.
His 23:16 in average ice time last season was the most of any Lightning player, while he also played on special teams and often double-shifted against opponents’ top lines.
This year, with the defensive pairings more solidified thanks in part to the additions of both Matt Carle and Sami Salo, the duties that at one time fell solely on Brewer have been alleviated to a degree, rendering him more at liberty to contribute in other areas of the ice.
“He’s not stuck like he was last year having to play 27 or 28 minutes a game,” Bolts head coach Guy Boucher said. “It wasn’t a willingness thing, it was just that he had way too much on his plate. He did everything he could, but at the end of last year, he was just drained.”
Now five games into the new season, Brewer appears to be rejuvenated.
He is on pace for what would be 24 goals, nearly three times that of his single-season career-high total of nine, scored throughout the 2010-11 season with both the St. Louis Blues and Lightning, respectively.
Not to mention, he is just one back in the goals department of teammate Steven Stamkos, and even chuckled at the thought of challenging the reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner for this year’s title.
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Brewer joked. “It’s probably going to end soon.”
For the sake of continuing to win night in and night out, even Stamkos wouldn’t jockey for that.