Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post
In a postseason that has been filled with adversity, drama, and thrill for the Capitals, players like captain Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Braden Holtby have been pegged as having an impact on the team’s first round series win against the Columbus Blue Jackets and in the team’s current series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, other less flashy players have also been key contributors in what has been a solid postseason performance thus far. One such player is forward Chandler Stephenson.
Despite averaging only 16:49 of ice time a night for Head Coach Barry Trotz, Stephenson has scored once and added three assists for four points in eight games played, with a plus-1 rating. In his first Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Caps, Stephenson has performed exceptionally well for a Capitals team that has lacked secondary scoring and depth in its past few postseason runs. While his 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 67 regular season games played isn’t spectacular, Stephenson has been used in numerous defensive situations this season, and that has continued in the playoffs.
In the aforementioned eight playoff games, Stephenson has won 45.5% of his faceoff draws and 50% of them while playing on the penalty kill. When Stephenson has been on the ice for the penalty kill, the Capitals have allowed just three power play goals. Stephenson has also excelled at even-strength, winning 58.3% of his faceoffs taken and offensively has generated some quality scoring chances, with 59.3% of his shots getting through to the net. Stephenson’s first playoff goal came on a shorthanded breakaway against the Blue Jackets, and in the team’s eight playoff games, has averaged 1.5 points per 60 minutes played, and the Caps’ netminders have recorded a .945 save percentage when Stephenson is on the ice.
A former third-round pick of the Capitals (77th overall in 2012), Stephenson has proven himself to be one of the Caps’ most trustworthy penalty killers and strongest defensive forwards. Having just turned 24-years old, Stephenson still has room to grow his game, both defensively and offensively. Given his strong showing in the postseason thus far, the future for Stephenson seems to be a promising one.
By Michael Fleetwood