There have been a few unlikely Capitals heroes this postseason: Braden Holtby, Jay Beagle and Joel Ward come to mind.
The next on that list? Could be Matt Hendricks.
We say “unlikely” because it’s a surprise Hendricks is even at this level. Nashville’s fifth-round pick in 2000, he was 28 when he became a NHL regular, the product of over 300 games at the ECHL/AHL levels.
But now he’s making the playoffs his coming out party. Hendricks leads the Caps in hits (57), faceoff percentage (57.4) and has two points…not bad, considering he had nine in 78 regular season games.
So, how has Hendricks become so successful? Teammate Brooks Laich has the answer.
“Cause he’s a — I don’t know if I can say it — he’s a prick on the ice,” Laich told the Washington Post. “You don’t want to play against a guy like that. You have to go through a lot to get the best of Matt Hendricks.
“He’s gonna compete, and he’s gonna do everything in his power to not let you do it. And he’s physical, and he’s strong, he plays hard minutes.”
Hendricks’ biggest asset might be his versatility. He’ll fight, he’ll hit, he’ll grind…but he’s also got some offensive flair, evident by his shootout prowess:
(Hendricks went 5-for-6 in the shootout this year and had three game-deciding goals.)
As Laich points out, Hendricks also likes to talk a lot.
“Gosh, my first impression was that this guy doesn’t shut up,” Laich said. “They very first [preseason] game I played with him was in Columbus and he ended up scoring a hat trick. I had never known the guy, we had been in training camp together for two days and before we went on the ice for this exhibition game — the first exhibition game of the year — this guy was just non-stop talking and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can take this.’”
That said, Laich has grown to appreciate what Hendricks brings to the table.
“To his credit, [Hendricks] has earned everything,” Laich said. “Nothing has been given to that guy, he’s earned it all.”