Erat's (Lack of) GoalsPosted on January 30, 2014 by Ben Bruno
The 2013-2014 season has not gone the way Martin Erat expected. Between seeing his minutes cut and playing on the 3rd and 4th lines, to being a healthy scratch for the likes of Aaron Volpatti, it's probably not how Erat envisioned things would play out. And we all know about his trade demand earlier in the season. Besides all of this, what is probably most surprising is that he has yet to score a goal this season. The question isn't when he will score, but how much it matters for the Caps.
Erat has played in 45 games this season and if he plays in all of the remaining games for the Caps, he'll total 74 games this season. In the history of the NHL, there have only been nine forwards to play 70 games or more and not score a goal. Of these nine players, Erat already has nine more points than the leading point producer, in a little more than half the games played. These other guys were not playmaking forwards and they weren't shooting the puck when they did have it. Even though Erat is only averaging 0.8 shots per game this season, he already has more shots on goal this season than four of the nine on the list. I'm not trying to compare Erat to these non-producers - that would be unfair to him - but for the time being, he's in bad company.
Erat has been snake-bitten this season and there are several times when the puck just didn't bounce his way on what were quality goal-scoring chances. I highly doubt that this bad luck will continue for the remainder of the season. While every team can use secondary and tertiary scoring, the recent play of Erat has shown that he doesn't need to score goals in order to be an asset to the Caps.
The Caps have scored ten goals in their last two games, after scoring only six in their previous five games combined. In those past two games, Erat has four assists while playing a season high 20.1 minutes against Montreal and then 17.4 minutes in Buffalo, good for more than three minutes more than his average time on ice this season and the 5th most of any Capitals forward. Also in the game against Buffalo, he posted his 2nd highest Corsi for percentage (68.2%) on the year, in games where he played more than ten minutes. On the subject of Corsi for percentage, Erat's has been below 50% just once in the last ten games, meaning he is controlling the play when he is on the ice. This has been a personal improvement for Erat, since his Corsi for percentage is under 50% for the season. Even though he is averaging less than one shot per game, Erat has been able to positively impact the game with his ability to possess the puck and setup his teammates with his passing.
The goal(s) for Erat should eventually come, but
as I mentioned earlier, the Caps won't need him to score if he continues to
setup his linemates for goals. I realize the last two games are just that, two
games, but Erat's play has shown why he was originally brought in from
Nashville. He has top-6 talent and should have been playing top-6 minutes all
season. It'd be safe to assume that once Grabovski is back in the lineup that
Erat will fall out of the top-6, since Oates is incapable of moving Laich or
Brouwer onto the 3rd line for good. I'll leave you with this: the
Caps are 13-7 when Erat plays at least 15 minutes, with four of those seven
losses coming on the recent eight game winless streak. Grabovski is a great
player and should be on the 2nd line no question, but his return doesn't
mean Erat should be odd man out. Hopefully Oates sees the light and doesn't cut
Bonus Poll: I think you know where I stand on this, but let's see what everyone else thinks.