Capitals Defense: Individual Player Performance Report For The First 12 Games

The Washington Capitals are now 12 games (20+%) into their abbreviated 56-game regular season schedule and currently sit in third place in the East Division, five points behind the Boston Bruins.

The unanticipated break in games provides an opportunity to take a closer look at the Capitals performance metrics to date and statistically assess specific components of the team’s overall play. Today we take a look at the defensemen and how they’ve performed so far this season.


The evaluation of defensemen is typically more challenging than offensive skater and netminder evaluations, however, there are a number of key metrics that are useful in a defenseman’s assessment. This assessment utilizes a number of defensive and offensive metrics to evaluate, including:

  • Zone Starts
  • Giveaways/Takeaways
  • Blocked Shots/Hits
  • Penalties
  • Penalty Kill
  • Possession/Scoring
  • PDO (SPSV% – SH% + SV%)

The designated categories are aimed at providing a detailed breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of each player for a wide range of statistical categories.

It should be noted that John Carlson, Brenden Dillon and Zdeno Chara are the only Capitals defensemen to play in every game (12) so far. Nick Jensen (9) has played the next most games, followed by Justin Schultz (8), Dmitry Orlov (7), Trevor van Riemsdyk (7) and Jonas Siegenthaler (6).

[Data courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, MoneyPuck, Evolving Hockey and]


Zone starts simply define the number of shifts started in each zone: offensive (blue), defensive (red) and neutral (gray). The metric is sometimes useful in assessing a coaches “trust’ in a player (defensive zone starts). Offensive zone starts may indicate less confidence or “protected” starts, or could also indicate a players propensity for scoring. [Click to enlarge]

To no surprise, John Carlson and Zdeno Chara have the most defensive zone starts among Capitals defenders, followed by Brenden Dillon and Nick Jensen. Justin Schultz, who shines in a number of the following categories, has the second most offensive zone starts in only eight games played.


The following chart illustrates the giveaways per 60 minutes of ice time (GvA – blue) and takeaways per 60 minutes of ice time (TkA/60 – orange). [Click to enlarge]

Brenden Dillon is the only Capitals defenseman with a positive giveaway/takeaway differential after 12 games. Justin Schultz and Dmitry Orlov have an even differential. Nick Jensen has the most giveaways/60 minutes and greatest giveaway/takeaway differential on the Capitals blueline, closely followed by Zdeno Chara.


The following graphic depicts the total number of blocked shots (Bks – blue), blocked shots per 60 minutes of ice time (Bks/60 – green), number of hits (Hits – orange) and hits per 60 minutes of ice time (Hits/60 – yellow). [Click to enlarge]

Zedeno Chara leads the team in total blocked shots, closely followed by John Carlson. However, Jonas Siegenthaler leads all defensemen in blocked shots per 60 minutes of ice time, followed by Trevor van Riemsdyk and Nick Jensen.

Brenden Dillon leads the team’s defenseman in total hits closely followed by Zdeno Chara. Dillon also leads all defensemen in hits per 60 minutes of ice time, followed by Nick Jensen and Zdeno Chara.


The look at penalties focuses on the differential of penalties taken and penalties drawn for 60 minutes of ice time (Net Pen/60 – blue) and penalties per time on the ice (Pim/Toi% – orange). [Click to enlarge].

Once again Justin Schultz has the best numbers with regards to penalties. He’s taken 0 penalties and drawn two penalties. To little surprise, Brenden Dillon has been the most penalized of the Capitals defensemen, but to his credit, he’s also drawn the most penalties.


Penalty Kill numbers are more of a key metric for a few of the Capitals defensemen. The chart below depicts power play goals allowed per 60 minutes of ice time (Pp Ga/60 – blue) and short handed time on ice per game played (Sh Toi/GP – Orange). [Click to enlarge]

Jonas Siegenthaler and Nick Jensen lead the Capitals defenders in short handed time on ice per game played, followed by John Carlson and Zdeno Chara. Brenden Dillon is giving up the fewest power play goals per game.


The following evaluation metric captures on-ice goal differentials (GF – yellow, GA – green), the ‘scoring chances for’ percentage (Scf% – blue) and the expected goals percentage (xGF% – orange) for each of the Capitals defenders. [Click to enlarge]

The glaring issue is fairly evident. Justin Schultz is the only Capitals defenseman above the 50% (even) mark in scoring chances and expected goals. This is further verified by the team’s overall possession and expected goals percentages that currently rank in the bottom fifth of the league.

PDO (SPSV% – SH% + SV%)

Players PDO (called SPSV% by the NHL) is the summation of a players shooting percentage and save percentage while the player is in the ice multiplied by 100. The sum is also used separately to see if a player should expect a regression or improvement in the coming games.

The combined SPSV% of all players/31 NHL teams will always equal 100%, therefor values over 100 likely indicate “lucky” play or players that will likely see a regression in the future. Conversely, players under 100 are deemed “unlucky” and will likely see an improvement. [Click to enlarge]

Brenden Dillon, John Carlson, Justin Schultz, Nick Jensen and Zdeno Chara all have a PDO value over 1 (100%) and are likely to see a regression. Dmitry Orlov, Jonas Siegenthaler and Trevor van Riemsdyk have PDO balues below 1 (100%) and will likely see improvement.


The defensive concerns are familiar ones, yet one can argue that the team has seen very unfamiliar circumstances and irregular pairings in the first 12 games. A new coach, new system and blender lines and defensive pairs are all viable reasons to negate some of the concern.

In addition, we have yet to see much settlement with regards to Laviolette’s preferred pairings for the long haul. Those should become readily apparent in the next dozen games or so.

Players To Watch

The Capitals will be eager for Justin Schultz’s return, which could happen Sunday against the Penguins. It will be interesting to see if his numbers remain as high as they are, or if he at least maintains top defenseman honors in our next review. John Carlson and Brenden Dillon have been the next best defenseman for the Capitals, although there a key statistical categories that should improve.

Zdeno Chara is eating minutes and defending in key situations, but could possibly benefit from intermittent rest, which has yet to occur.  Nick Jensen and Jonas Siegenthaler have been valuable on the penalty kill, but need to step it up in 5-on-5 play, or they could be considered for regular replacement.

Trevor van Riemsdyk and Dmitry Orlov need more games to get a better feel for performances, however their numbers need to improve. Dmitry Orlov, making $5.1 million on a team that is strapped for cash, needs to improve or the murmurs of a trade deadline deal could intensify.

Numbers To Watch

The underlying numbers and advanced statistics have been concerning from the start, although last Sunday’s 7-4 loss to the Flyers actually saw an overall improvement in a number of key statistical areas, mainly in the area of shot metrics, scoring chances and expected goals. In fact, the last 2-3 games have seen improving numbers. Keep an eye of the xGF% and SCF% over the next 12 games.

We will revisit the aforementioned metrics in another dozen or so games to determine the latest trends since the 12-game mark.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Capitals Defense: Individual Player Performance Report For The First 12 Games

  1. Pingback: Saturday Caps Clips: All Present and Accounted For

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good reviews like it..

Leave a Reply