Shifting the Caps Defense When Orpik Returns

Brooks Orpik looks like he is getting closer to returning to the Caps lineup. He has been skating with trainers before Caps practice and occasionally with the team. And now he is on the three-game road trip. Could his return be eminent? What will it mean for the D-lines when he is back? Does that mean that someone goes?

We present a descriptive stat comparison for this article. The data was pulled from war-on-ice, ESPN, and the NHL for the 2015-16 season only. Our goal is to provide our perspective on who contributes the most as a defenseman. Some place more value on points (goals especially) while others are interested in how the D helps protect the team and provides scoring chances. More than just scoring goals, their primary job is to defend and provide a layer of protection in front of the net. So we tried to consider a combination of stats as we ranked the defensemen, which you can ultimately shape however you like! This is our take:

John Carlson has had his own experience with injury. He has not been skating up to his pre-injury self—he hasn’t scored since his return. Despite missing 12 games, he leads the D-men in points, goals, and assists. Carlson is part of the power play line and plays a critical role in creating scoring chances.

Karl Alzner is one of the most consistent players on the team. The Iron Man leads the team in blocked shots and holds the Caps’ record for consecutive games played. Karl is one of the most positive influences on the team, something they will need as they head to the final stretch.

Matt Niskanen had a ‘surprise’ goal against the Flyers—his third for the season. He is tied with Alzner for +/- rating of 16 and second on the team for blocked shots at 96. And he is second behind Orlov in takeaways. We would place him third behind Alzner as most valuable defenseman to the team.

Dmitry Orlov is back this year, after recovering from a broken wrist. In his last five games he has had a goal and an assist. He is having a pretty good year. Dima is third in overall defensemen points but his shot percentage is low at 1.1. He is second only to Carlson in goals (5) and tied with Carly for goals scored in 60 minutes.

Nate Schmidt makes everyone smile. He ranks on par with Niskanen for goals scored in 60 minutes of play and is ranks fourth for defensemen in blocked shots. He has a decent +/- rating of 9 and his number of takeaways are higher than both Alzner and Carly. All in all, Nate is another positive influence on the team. He is performing better than Chorney and about middle of the road in our overall ranking of Caps defensemen.

Taylor Chorney gives the team depth, although he has yet to hit the back of the net this season. He has done a respectable job filling in for the ailing Orpik; however, he has the lowest team stats in every area except blocked shots.

The beauty of all this is that the Caps have a great advantage. They have a D in reserve. Should any of these players face an injury, or a slump, there is someone that can fill the gap. It is likely that, if the cap allows, they can keep all seven defensemen and have the depth they need to secure the run for the cup.

The Stats

GP Points Goals Assists +/- Shot % G60 TK BS
Alzner 51 17 3 14 16 6.5 .17 15 131
Carlson 39 27 6 21 4 6.3 .38 15 84
Chorney 42 5 0 5 12 0 .00 7 42
Niskanen 51 23 3 20 16 3.1 .14 25 96
Orlov 51 19 5 14 11 1.1 .38 28 32
Orpik 14 3 1 2 -1 8.3 .22 2 27
Schmidt 46 12 2 10 9 3.5 .14 21 76


BS Blocked shots pose an extra problem: they’re shots that have been recorded at the point at which they’ve been blocked

GP Games played

G60 Goals scored by the individual, per 60 minutes

S%  Shot percentage represents the percentage of shots on net that result in a goal.

TK are takeaways.

+/-   Plus/minus rating depicts the number of goals for the home team (+), and number of goals against (-) a player is on the ice for.


 Photos by Brittney Marcum

Author: Maggie Marcum

Managing Editor for Friends in Cold Places.

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