The Washington Capitals arguably have the best defensive corps in the National Hockey League. Just looking at the Capitals’ lineup, it’s says something when Brooks Orpik and trade deadline acquisition Kevin Shattenkirk are the third-pairing for Washington. Look around the league, and both of those players are top four guys on most teams around the league. With players such as Orpik and Shattenkirk as a team’s fifth and sixth defensemen, one can only imagine how great the top-pairing players are. If a team’s top-pairing is so great though, why are some Caps fans calling for one of those said players to be scratched? Most notably, defensive stalwart Karl Alzner?
Just like what was done with the Capitals’ top-line of Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie, NoVa Caps is looking at a couple of notable statistics and then one can decide if the Capitals’ top defensive-pairing is good enough. These stats will be advanced stats, and will tell fans some things about the line, and leave out others, so if fans want to decide if players are good enough or not, they have to combine these stats with the stats that can be easily seen on paper.
It should be pointed out that all the stats that will be read in this post are from 5-on-5 situations .
Caps’ Top pairing: Alzner-Carlson,
Corsi: 46.01 rating
Shots For%: 47.77,
Goals For%: 59.52, +8 Goal Differential,
Scoring Chance For%: 48.91,
As one can see it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The pair’s Corsi rating isn’t great, shots percentage isn’t very good, and scoring chances aren’t great. Then again, they are pretty good in other statistics, like goals-for percentage, goal differential, and save percentage.
Just like NoVa Caps’ piece on the Capitals’ top forward line, it is time to compare the Caps’ top defensive-pairing with other Stanley Cup contenders. With the Metropolitan Division having three clear-cut top contenders the comparison’s will start there.
Pittsburgh Penguins– Brian Dumoulin–Kris Letang,
Corsi rating: 53.22
Goals For%-48.89 -1 Goal Differential
Scoring Chance For%-55.74
Columbus Blue Jackets– Zach Werenski–Seth Jones
Goals For%-59.09, +12 Goal Differential,
Scoring Chance For%-49.40
New York Rangers– Dan Girardi–Ryan McDonagh
Goals For%-45.28, -5 Goal Differential
Scoring Chance For%-48.37
If the Capitals want to win the Stanley Cup they are going to have to get out of their own division. If they hope to accomplish this, they must beat very tough, teams including the above top defensive-pairings.
Those are some of the pairings from the Eastern Conference. Now, NoVa Caps looks at some more combinations, this time from the Western Conference.
Minnesota Wild– Ryan Suter–Jared Spurgeron
Goals For%-62.50, +22 Goal Differential
Scoring Chance For%-62.82
Chicago Blackhawks– Duncan Keith–Niklas Hjalmarsson
Goals For%-554.17, +4 Goal Differential
Scoring Chance For%-47.57
San Jose Sharks– Marc-Eduoard Vlasic–Justin Braun
Goals For%-48.39, -2 Goal Differential
Scoring Chance For%-50.00
Anaheim Ducks– Cam Fowler–Sami Vatanen
Goals For%-45.00, -4 Goal Differential
Scoring Chance For%-53.68
Those are just a couple of the top pairings from around the NHL.
Before one finishes up and decides if Alzner-Carlson is a great top-pairing, there are just a couple more numbers to point out. The Time On Ice for these combinations, The Scoring Chances Against Per 60 minutes, and Scoring Chance Differential.
-4 Scoring Chance Differential.
+21 Scoring Chance Differential.
– 961 TOI
– 7.92 SCA/60
-3 Scoring Chance Differential.
-6 Scoring Chance Differential.
+71 Scoring Chance Differential.
-10 Scoring Chance Differential.
– 940 TOI
Even Scoring Chance Differential.
+10 Scoring Chance Differential.
Fans, you now have all the numbers that could tell the effectiveness of a defense-pairing. Now it’s your turn. Do you think the Capitals’ top defensive pair is good enough?
A team needs their best players to be their best players come playoff time. Depth can get a team far, but it is what it is, depth. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang win Stanley Cups. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith win Cups. Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Drew Doughty win Cups.
As much as it will help, Orpik and Shattenkirk aren’t the Caps’ key players. Neither is the beloved fourth-line the Capitals possess. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Karl Alzner, and John Carlson will need to lead this team the glory. The only question is if they will be able to do so.
By CJ Witt