ARLINGTON, Va. — Washington Capitals defenseman Rasmus Sandin has taken many trips to MedStar Capitals Iceplex, but there was one caveat. He had not acquired an American driver’s license and was driving around the D.M.V with his Swedish one that he had for the last six years and his main source of transportation was Uber.
But now that he has settled in with an American license on-hand, Sandin has also started to settle into his new role on the Capitals’ roster. Coming over from the Toronto Maple Leafs at last year’s trade deadline, Sandin knew that he was going to have a top-four role in D.C. that involved big minutes. While the uptick in ice time has increased drastically in Washington compared to Toronto, the left-shot rearguard had a tough start to the year.
In the very first game of the 2023-24 campaign, when the Caps were blanked 4-0 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sandin had a plus/minus rating of -2 and had a bad turnover in front of the net that almost resulted in a goal.
“Defensively he’s always going to be someone that has to pay attention to that part of his game. It just doesn’t come naturally to him. It’s not the type of defenseman he is… If he’s gonna play 27, 28, 26 minutes a night, he’s gonna have to be able to defend,” Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said. “That’s the rush, that’s being able as an undersized defenseman to use your stick, use your body intelligently. You don’t have to overpower people but you’re gonna have to use it in a strategic way to win puck battles, to box out, all that stuff.”
Though the 2018 first-round pick says that he has always paid attention to the defensive part of his game and says that it has always come naturally to him. However, it still needs to be improved. Sitting at just 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds, Sandin is not one to play a physical game, so he’s had to find other ways to help his team defensively.
“It’s something I’ve been working on and keep working on with [assistant coach Mitch Love] and watching a lot of videos and stuff,” Sandin told NoVaCaps. “So just keep getting better at everything. Not just the defensive side of the puck. It’s important to use my stick… I’m not the biggest guy so I can’t really bully guys down in the corner or whatever, but the only thing I can do is move my feet and be in the right position to have a good step.”
While his play in his own zone needs to be better, his offensive game has slowly started to take shape. He has points in three of his last five games and has two assists in his last two contests.
Sandin’s first point of the season came against the Columbus Blue Jackets, when he had the secondary assist on Sonny Milano’s goal with three minutes to go in the second period.
that shot-pass had everybody fooled pic.twitter.com/EWNHENTmTc
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 4, 2023
Though he could have had two had the league not marked him down for the primary helper on Tom Wilson’s opening goal. Sandin carried the puck up the ice, but lost possession after he was poke checked, and it eventually worked its way to Wilson.
The 23-year-old blue-liner logged a season high 26:24 minutes of ice time in the 4-1 win against the New York Islanders, along with having an assist. The night before, against the New Jersey Devils, he played 25:29 and had the primary assist on Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s opening tally. It was a perfect pass to set up Aube-Kubel for the one-time blast.
what a beauty pic.twitter.com/f6KOEzpJPt
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 11, 2023
Meanwhile, his underlying offensive numbers have seen a jump from the start of the campaign. He has created 10 or more scoring chances in six out of his last seven games and has created more high danger scoring opportunities.
Sandin will look to continue to build on his offensive game when the Capitals host the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.
By Jacob Cheris