Capitals Defense: Individual Player Performance After 34 Games

The Washington Capitals have now played 34 games of their abbreviated 56-game regular season schedule. Our last review of the Capitals’ defense was conducted back on March 3, after the first 24 games, or when 40+ percent of the season was complete. With 10 more games in the books, or more than 60% of the season complete, it’s a good time to catch up on how the blue liners have been doing in recent games. 

This post will assess the Capitals’ defensemen with the same key metrics applied in the 12 and 24-game assessments, and identify notable trends or shifts in performance since the initial baseline assessment was conducted at 12 games and the second assessment that was conducted after 24 games.


To recap the overarching process, there are a number of key metrics that are useful in assessing a defenseman’s performance. This analysis will utilize defensive and offensive statistics, including:

  • Goals, Assists and Plus/Minus
  • Giveaways/Takeaways
  • Blocked Shots/Hits
  • Penalties
  • Penalty Kill
  • Shift Zone Starts
  • Possession/Scoring Chances
  • PDO (SPSV% – SH% + SV%)
  • Player Season Trends

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

Before we begin, it should be noted that John Carlson, Brenden Dillon and Zdeno Chara are the only Capitals defensemen to play in every game so far. Nick Jensen (31) has played the next most games, followed by Justin Schultz (30), Dmitry Orlov (29), Trevor van Riemsdyk (9) and Jonas Siegenthaler (7).

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


Let’s begin the assessment with the basic stats for each of the Capitals’ defensemen. The following graph simply plots the goals, assists and plus/minus value for each player through the first 34 games of the season.

John Carlson leads all defensmen in goals, assists and total points. Dmitry Orlov is second in goals and Justin Schultz is second in assists.

The only defensemen with a negative plus/minus among Capitals defensemen is John Carlson, Jonas Siegenthaler and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Justin Schultz and Zdeno Chara have the best plus-minus values on the blueline.


Takeaway/Giveaway Differential

The following graph plots the difference in takeaways and giveaways for each of the Capitals defensemen. (Total takeaways – total giveaways).

Dmitry Orlov continues to lead this category with a +13 differential. Zdeno Chara continues to have the worst differential, giving up the puck 14 times more than he has stolen the puck.

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

As a result, Dmitry Orlov leads the team with 2.31 takeaways per 60. Zdeno Chara gives the puck away 2.25 times per 60 minutes of icetime.


The next graph plots the total number of blocked shots (Bks – red), blocked shots per 60 minutes of ice time (Bks/60 – cyan), number of hits (Hits – green) and hits per 60 minutes of ice time (Hits/60 – yellow) for each player. [Click to enlarge]

John Carlson now leads all Capitals defenders in blocked shots at 5v5.(45). Zdeno Chara is a close second (44), followed by Brenden Dillon (39) and Nick Jensen (37).

Brenden Dillon continues to lead all Capitals in hits (83). Zdeno Chara is second (52) followed by Dmitry Orlov (50).


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 ice (Pim/Toi% – orange) for each player. [Click to enlarge].

Justin Schultz remains the only Capitals defender with a positive differential per 60. (Trevor van Riemsdyk has a greater positive differential but has played in much fewer games).

Zdeno Chara has the worst net penalties per 60, closely followed by Jonas Siegenthaler and Brenden Dillon.


Penalty kill numbers are more of a key metric for a few specific Capitals defensemen. The chart below plots power play goals allowed per 60 minutes of ice time (Pp Ga/60 – orange), short-handed time on ice percentage (Sh toi% – red)% and the differential of the two values. (Diff – blue) for each player (Sh toi%/Pp Ga/60). [Click to enlarge]

Zdeno Chara and Dmitry Orlov lead all regular Capitals defenders in goals against per 60.


Zone starts simply define the number of shifts started in each zone: offensive (red), defensive (blue) and neutral (orange). 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, Zdeno Chara and John Carlson have the most defensive zone starts among Capitals defenders, followed by Brenden Dillon and Nick Jensen.


The following evaluation metric captures possession, scoring chances and shooting metrics for each defenseman. It includes ‘shots for’ (HDCF% – blue), ‘scoring chances for’ percentage (Scf% – red), ‘expected goals for’ percentage (xGF% – cyan) and offensive zone shift start percentages (orange) for each of the Capitals defenders. [Click to enlarge]

Nick Jensen and Zdeno Chara continue to shine in this area of the stats. Both players are well over the 50% threshold in HDCF%, SCF% and xGF%, all with greatly reduced offensive zone starts.

Justin Schultz and Dmitry Orlov has come back down to earth and closer to the 50% threshold. Dmitry Orlov has dropped well below the 50% threshold.

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 on 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%, therefore values over 100 likely indicate “lucky” play or players that will potentially see a regression in the near future. Conversely, players under 100 are deemed “unlucky” and will potentially see an improvement in the near future. [Click to enlarge]

All regular Capitals defensmen have a PDO well over 100.

Justin Schultz continues to increase his PDO number and has the greatest value above 100 among all Capitals defensemen. Zdeno Chara, who had the greatest value in the last assessment has regressed towards 100, but still has the second highest value among all Capitals defensemen.


The Capitals lineup on the blue line has been fairly constant over the last 10-20 games, with the exception of adding a seventh defenseman in recent games when a forward was out of the lineup. In fact, barring injuries, a trade or other absences, it looks like the Capitals starting defensive pairs when the playoffs begin is set.


Player Season Trends

The following table lists three key statistical categories for each player at the 12 and 24-game marks of the season. Each statistical category includes a differential (Diff) which details the trends for each player over the last 12 games.

12-24 GAMES

Nick Jensen and Dmitry Orlov showed the greatest improvement from games 12 to 24. However, John Carlson has also showed solid improvement across all three statistical categories. Zdeno Chara continued his positive play and increased his numbers in xGF% and SCF%. Justin Schultz, who got off to a blazing-hot start showed some recent cooling.

24-34 GAMES

The following graph illustrates the level of play for each player at 12, 24 and 34 games. The”Diff” values detail the level of play over the last 10 games and are the difference between game 24 and game 34.

John Carlson has shown the greatest improvement in these statistical categories over the last 10 games. Brenden Dillon showed the second greatest improvement followed by Zdeno Chara.

Justin Schultz came back to the pack and showed the greatest regression over the last 10 games, followed by Dmitry Orlov.

We will revisit this analysis one more time at around the 44 or 46 games completed mark.

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

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.
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3 Responses to Capitals Defense: Individual Player Performance After 34 Games

  1. Pingback: Tuesday Caps Clips: Capitals @ Rangers Game Day

  2. Mike says:

    Siegs needs more playing time. Dillon needs to feel the hot seat.

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