It’s been a long season for Washington Capitals defenseman Alex Alexeyev. A season of dealing with adversity and biding long stretches of time in the press box. But in the end, it all may have been forth it for Alexeyev and the Capitals.
The Capitals announced on June 18 that Alexeyev had undergone labral repair surgery on his left shoulder and would miss 4-5 months. Any plans for the Capitals opening night roster were subsequently scrapped.
Following rehab, Alexeyev was re-assigned to Hershey for a conditioning assignment on October 28 and then officially recalled by the Capitals on November 8. He had to be recalled, because Alexeyev is not waivers exempt this season.
That put Alexeyev and the Capitals in a bit of a tough spot, as the team was still fighting for the playoffs and job openings on the blueline were non-existent. It was either risk waiving Alexeyev to get him games in Hershey, or tuck him away on the roster. Alexeyev remained safely on the Capitals roster, but saw very little game action. Not ideal for development.
NO PLAYOFFS SILVER LININGS
Alexeyev watched from the press box most nights. That is, until recently. With playoff chances waning, the Capitals did the right thing and inserted Alexeyev in the lineup on a full time basis. As one would expect, things started slowly for him, as Justin pointed out in his 15-game assessment of Alexeyev back on March 7.
[The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, MoneyPuck and the NoVa Caps Advanced Analytics Model (NCAAM). If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary]
As noted, Alexeyev saw spotty playing time, which was likely a significant factor in his underwhelming performance in his first 15 games this season. He also saw games when the Capitals Blueline was completely decimated with injury. Also not ideal for development.
1o games later and Alexeyev looks to be settling in very nicely. The following graph plots the average time on ice per game, offensive zone shift start percentage and the expected goals for percentage of for each of the Capitals defensemen at five-on-five for the season.
Alexeyev is still seeing a majority of his shift starts in the defensive zone, which is good. He is also raising his expected goals for percentage significantly. Even better. There is no question Alexeyev has elevated his level of play over the last 10 games.
It’s only been two games since the Capitals had their full defensive core back in the lineup, but in those two games, the Alexeyev and van Riemsdyk pairing has looked excellent, and has been the Capitals best defensive pair with regards to possession metrics.
Make no mistake, the Capitals have been testing Alexeyev, as they need to make their final assessment of the status of the Capitals blueline in order to finalize their “to-do” list for the upcoming offeseason.
The Capitals are giving Alexeyev big minutes on the Capitals penalty kill as well (he logged 4:46 of shorthanded time against the Blackhawks). He is also seeing huge chunks of defensive zone deployments. Simply,put, the Capitals have put Alexeyev to the test and Alexeyev has answered the bell, so far.
It still early in the assessment of Alexeyev and there are months to go before a decision regarding his roster spot for opening night, but so far he is looking like he just might be ready for a full-time job.
By Jon Sorensen
They need to play him with Carlson to see how that goes. Could then pair Jensen and MF. And keep Sandin as bottom pair to shield him from top offensive lines.
They have played together, but only for a couple of minutes. You’re right, though, there might be something there:
Jon you said months ago that he topped out in Hershey on a comment to me and you were right. I am very pleased by his play overall and really hope he will be given a full time job next this September. I really like his game.
Thanks Mark. You have a good memory, and I’m with you on AA.
Just imagine how much farther along his development would be if he had 55 games played and Laviolettes favored Irwin only had 24 (as of today)