Salary Cap Casualties: Karl Alzner

Scanning the seats at Verizon Center a few months ago, I noticed a sign that caught my eye.  It was covered in flashy writing and was impossible to miss.  The sign read “ALZ WE NEED IS KARL.”  Irony at its finest.

The date was November 26th, and Karl Alzner hadn’t even played in an NHL game yet.  Capitals ‘D’ man Jeff Schultz had just broke his finger in the final game of a frustrating road trip (1-3-1), and was expected to miss a month.  By putting Schultz (and Chris Clark) on the long term injured reserve, the Caps finally had enough cap room to call up their top prospect.

All eyes were on #47 that night as the Caps squared off against the Atlanta Thrashers for just the second time.  Washington got off to a quick start by scoring three first period goals, and with the help of an Alex Ovechkin hat trick, the Capitals were able to fend off the Thrashers, 5-3.  Even though Ovechkin notched his first hat trick since early last March, all the talk was on the Capitals young defenceman:

“I think Karl and Sami (Lepisto) moved the puck really well,” Boudreau said. “It’s what we wanted them to do. The forwards get the puck and consequently we get five goals.

Karl recorded the second most ice time for the Caps (trailed Ovechkin by less than 30 seconds), and played solid, but not spectacular.  But that’s what Washington needs from the 5th overall pick of the 2007 draft who had nine points in 20 games in Hershey before getting the call-up.

Alzner’s game focuses on positioning and playing defensively sound.  In fact, it took Karl 22 games to pick up his first penalty…A delay of game infraction for flipping the puck over the glass.  His only other penalty this year was also delay of game, playing for the Hershey Bears…two penalties in 46 games.

With Alzner’s demotion yesterday comes good news and bad news.  Good in the sense that Tom Poti might be healthy enough for Tuesday’s showdown with the Bruins.  But with Poti on the roster, there is not enough cap space to retain Karl as well.  As much as Capitals fans want Poti to return, Alzner has proved he can play in this league and will be missed greatly.

So how much effect did Karl Alzner have on the Capitals?  Here are some notes on the Caps since King Karl’s arrival and some of his noteable individual statistics:

  • Going into Alzner’s first NHL game, Washington had lost three straight (in regulation) for the first time since the Glen Hanlon era.  The Caps then went on to win 15 of their next 19 with Alzner in the lineup.  Washington is currently 18-8 when Karl plays.
  • Alzner also has the second highest Corsi rating among Capitals defenceman.  Corsi rating takes into account plenty of variables to determine a player’s even-strength effectiveness.
  • It took Karl just six games to score his first NHL goal.  He also recorded his first career multi-point performance in the same game.
  • Alzner is third among rookies in both time on ice and blocked shots.  The two players ahead of him in each category have played nine and 19 more games than Karl, respectivley.

Five days seperate us from a nationally televised meeting with the Boston Bruins who have a 10 point lead on Washington with a game in hand.  If by some reason Poti is unable to go, Alzner could see himself back in the NHL real soon.

Man if only there was some way to keep Karl Alzner in the NHL without going over the salary cap…cough trade Michael Nylander cough..But now is not the time to get into that right now…Just a reminder: Don’t forget to watch Ovechkin in the shootout competition and All-Star game.  You can follow all of Ovi’s moves this weekend in Montreal on his Twitter page.

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