The Washington Capitals currently sit in the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, an improvement from last season, and it’s because they have one of the top scoring defencemen in the NHL.
Having a Career Year
No it isn’t Mike Green, John Carlson is having a career-year and it is paying dividends for the Caps. The 25-year-old is tied for fourth in scoring amongst all blueliners this season with five goals and 35 points in 47 games. His 30 assists this season are the second most amongst all defenders and second amongst his Capitals teammates behind only Nicklas Backstrom.
The 6-foot-3 D-man is on pace to shatter his career-high in points. His previous best was 37 points which he hit last year and also back during the 2010-11 season, so he is just two points away from matching that total. The Natick, MA native has looked to have gained the confidence of new head coach Barry Trotz.
Carlson leads the team in ice-time, averaging 23:21 a night, and has been trusted in all situations. He is on the team’s top pairing playing alongside Brooks Orpik, and finds time on the team’s second power play unit. He also averages over three minutes a game on the penalty kill. The Caps have the third-best power play in the league, but Carlson has just seven points with the extra man.
That almost makes the fact that 80% or 28 of his points have come at even strength more impressing. If Carlson can keep his pace up and hit the 60-point mark, which he is set to do, it would be the highest total by a Capitals defenceman since Green tallied 19 goals and 76 points back during the 2010-11 season.
Wearing the Red, White, and Blue
Last year Carlson was named to Team USA’s Olympic team and had a goal and an assist for the team. It was the second time he had the opportunity to represent his country. He also wore his country’s colours back in 2010 during the World Junior Hockey Championship and even scored the tournament winning goal in overtime against their northern rivals, Canada.
Among Team’s Best and League’s Best
On top of being the team’s most offensive blueliner, he has also been very dependable defensively. Carlson leads the team in plus minus with a +13 and is also second on the Caps and eight in the NHL in blocked shots with 107.
The first round pick in 2008 is third on the team in scoring with just Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin with more points than Carlson. He is also just six points behind Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano for top spot in scoring amongst defencemen.
The Capitals were three points out from taking the second Wild Card Spot in the East last year. This year the team is playing a better defensive game, but has remained a dangerous threat offensively as well. So the Caps could be a threat in the East.
Green will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but with Carlson emerging as a top defenceman in the league, the Caps shouldn’t be worried about the state of their blue line this season and going forward.
Craig is an intern at The Hockey News where he has written for both the website and the magazine. He is also a featured-blogger at http://www.hockeyforums.net/index.php/blog/46-its-a-canadian-game/. Craig has an Honours in Journalism from Wilfird Laurier University and is currently completing the Sports Journalism Program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @Craig_Hagerman.