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31 in 31

Washington Capitals key statistics

Carlson's numbers on power play, increase of shots could key Cup repeat

by Rob Vollman / Correspondent is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Washington Capitals.


[Capitals 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]


1. Feeling the power

John Carlson led NHL defensemen with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists) in 82 games last season, after he had 37 points (nine goals, 28 assists) in 72 games in 2016-17. The 31-point improvement was the largest among NHL defensemen last season.

Much of Carlson's extra scoring can be attributed to his production on the power play, where his 32 points (four goals, 28 assists) ranked second among defensemen to Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers, who had 33 (seven goals, 26 assists). 

In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Carlson had 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) in 24 games, which is the fourth best total for a defenseman since 2005-06. His 12 power-play points (four goals, eight assists) is tied for top spot in that span with Nicklas Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, who did it in 2006-07.

Video: John Carlson takes the No. 8 spot on the list


2. Low shot volumes

The Capitals averaged an NHL-low 29.0 shots per game last season, down from an average of 30.4 for the previous two seasons, which which was tied for 23rd. They outshot their opponents 28 times last season, were outshot in 50 games, and were tied in four games. 

The lower shot volumes were due in part to the losses of forward Justin Williams, who signed a two-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on July 1, 2017, and forward Marcus Johansson, who was traded to the New Jersey Devils the following day. Williams and Johansson combined for 333 shots for the Capitals in 2015-16 and 296 shots in 2016-17.

This season, Washington will rely on forward Alex Ovechkin, who had 355 shots last season to lead the NHL for the 11th time in 13 seasons, and on higher shot volumes from the secondary lines.

Video: 31 in 31: Washington Capitals 2018-19 season preview


3. Confidence in goal

Washington went from an NHL-low 177 goals allowed in 2016-17 to 238 last season, which ranked 16th. That increase of 61 goals against was the second largest after the Ottawa Senators (74), and was the greatest full-season increase in Capitals history.

Washington has enough confidence in a comeback season by goaltender Braden Holtby that his backup, Philipp Grubauer, was traded to the Colorado Avalanche on June 22. Holtby had an NHL career-low .907 save percentage last season, down from a previous career save percentage of .922, which was tied for sixth among the 60 active goalies who had played at least 50 games prior to last season.

Video: Braden Holtby takes the No. 2 spot on the list

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