Everyone knows that a team cannot win the Stanley Cup when solely relying on a stellar offense. Washington Capitals fans know this more than most. In many regards, that is why Alexander Ovechkin is not a 10-time champion.
For a team to withstand all obstacles, it needs a reliable defense. Michal Kempny is one such reliable player. The 29-year-old is a well-rounded defenseman who contributes to the cause when needed. Most of his contributions go unnoticed. That is why we are here. We are here to shine a light on the unrecognized contributions of Kempny.
The Czech Republic native signed with the Chicago Blackhawks on May 23, 2016, after a successful season with the Avangard Omsk (KHL). The defenseman logged eight points (2 G, 6 A) in 50 games during his first NHL season. Halfway through his second season, Kempny came to the Capitals.
He arrived in Washington on Feb. 19, 2018, in exchange with Chicago for a conditional pick in 2018 NHL Draft. Clearly, he sneaked in at a good time. The defenseman registered two goals and three assists in 25 playoff games during the Cup run of 2018 to etch his name in coveted metal. His first Stanley Cup Playoff goal came in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. You’re welcome, Kempny.
No, Thank You, Kempny
In reality, the Capitals should be the ones thanking Kempny. He has grown to be an active contributor to the defensive corps. For those uninterested in analytics, please rejoin us in the next section.
To start with the easy stuff, Kempny registered 25 points (6 G, 19 A) in 71 regular-season games for the 2018-19 season. Half of his goals were game-winners. Among Caps players, he ranked first in the plus/minus category with plus-24. He ranked second with 3.9 defensive point shares, showing the number of points contributed due to his defense. He ranked third with 135 blocks. Both his Corsi-For percentage at even strength and Fenwick-For % at even strength were above 50% – which indicates a positive impact on the team’s puck control.
The rest of his stats were more regular. He finished with 21 takeaways and 47 giveaways, an unalarming difference in the scheme of things. He shouldered an average 19:11 time on ice for a total of 1,362 minutes on ice, and provided the shoulder in 84 hits. While those were middle-of-the-pack numbers, they still cracked the top 10 among the Capitals team.
Match Made in Hockey Heaven
In a show of great matchmaking, Kempny proved a great companion for defensive standout John Carlson. The two consistently put out positive numbers for their team, especially when one evaluates shots for and shots against during five-on-five strength. Funnily enough, Kempny almost mirrors Alexander Ovechkin in terms of team shots for and shots against while on ice. Kempny tallied 1,206 with and 2,752 without, while Ovechkin offered 1,248 with and 2,710 without. However, that measure might be too incongruous to adequately analyze. But if you have the audacity, those were the numbers.
In layman’s terms: Kempny is a great player.
For those rejoining us, just know that Kempny is a benefit to Washington’s back end. That is why the pressure is felt for him to start the official 2019-20 season off on the right foot – literally. Kempny suffered a torn left hamstring against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Mar. 20. He underwent surgery on Apr. 2. He arrives at the end of a recovery period stretching four to six months, and the Caps are anxious to get the blueliner back on the ice.
Off the ice, Kempny shares another match made in hockey heaven. He is good friends with newly-acquired right-winger, Richard Pánik. The countrymen formed a working comradery in 2016 when they both played for the Blackhawks organization. Pánik described them as “real good friends” in his first media teleconference as a Capital.
The forward further explained: “[Kempny’s] from (the) Czech Republic, so we’re really close, our countries together…even my wife and Kempny’s girlfriend – they’re really close. So of course, that’s something positive [that] he’s there. So, that’s good for me and for my wife.” An already established bond can hopefully bolster both players’ games. When Kempny is back in working order, it will be fun to witness the two play together on the ice.
Maybe Kempny’s impact is underappreciated, but it is certainly not fruitless. The defender does not need to worry about individual accolades as markers of success because his main contribution is enduring: influence on the younger generation.
One of the developing favorites to make the jump from juniors to pros is Martin Fehervary. He impressed both at the Prospect Showcase and Training Camp.
The rookie credits his crescendoing achievements to the veteran, whose style he emulates. “I’m trying to play two-way, defensively, but I’m trying to be always 100% sure in the defense…If I get a chance to, I like to join the rush. If I can skate with the puck, I like to. I’m playing offensively if I can,” Fehervary asserted. When talented prospects walk down the way you have paved, you have made it.
Thank you, Michal Kempny.