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Will John Carlson regress in the 2019-2020 season?

Will John Carlson regress in the 2019-2020 season?

During the 2018-19 campaign, John Carlson had a career year. In 80 games, the defenseman notched 70 points and finished fourth in Norris Trophy voting.

But is there reason to believe the Capitals won't put up more monster numbers next season?

Ian Tulloch of The Athletic thinks so. He recently named Carlson a candidate who will likely regress in the 2019-2020 season.

"I doubt Carlson’s goal totals are going to drop dramatically," Tulloch noted. "My bigger concern is how well he’s going to impact goal differential at five-on-five, not to mention his assist totals."

During 2018-19, Carlson's shooting percentage spiked to 12.1 percent, much higher than the eight or nine he'd been sporting throughout his career.

It's important to note that this is also at five-on-five play, so Carlson's power-play and penalty-killing abilities haven't influenced this statistic.

One reason Carlson's shooting percentage may have spiked is due to his zone starts. In the 2018-19 season, Carlson started a shift in the offensive zone 56.6 percent of the time, much higher than his career average of 49.7. More starts in the offensive zone typically mean a higher chance you'll stay there and score.

However, this would include his power-play time as well for Carlson, so it can't be the only factor.

Another factor we could look at is the rest of Carlson's common linemates and if their on-ice shooting percentages shot up as well.

Alex Oveckin's on-ice shooting percentage shot up past 12 percent for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Evgeny Kuznetsov's hit 11.8, the highest of his career. TJ Oshie and Jakub Vrana were both north of 10 percent. Tom Wilson was also just beyond 11 percent. And Carlson's most common defensive partners, Brooks Orpik and Michal Kempny, sported on-ice shooting percentages over 11 percent.

This all indicates that the increased on-ice shooting percentages were a line-wide phenomenon, if not team-wide. As a team, the Caps had a shooting percentage of 11 percent, higher than the league average of 9.5.

And there may be something to this. Below is John Carlson's 5v5 unblocked-for shot rate, courtesy of Micah Blake McCurdy. Sections of red mark higher-than-NHL-average shots, and blue is lower-than-NHL-average.

Compare that to the Caps 5v5 unblocked-for shot rate, and there's a clear pattern. The Caps get most of their shots from the high and mid slot.

Carlson's personal chart from last season is a magnification of how the Caps offense runs when it's at its best. They get to areas where they take higher-percentage shots, which is something the coaching staff worked hard to implement.

But that good news also comes with a caveat. If the team can't replicate that shot quality next season, then not only would Carlson regress next season as Tulloch thinks, it's likely that the entire team could too.

Will that regression happen next season? We'll have to wait and see.

    •    Ovi to Vegas?: Fear not
    •    Caps over Cap: Stephenson's deal brings more questions 
    •    Burning questions: What's the PK look like?

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Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

With no live sports to watch, people have to find ways to pass the time. A fun way to do it is with NBC Sports Washington's NHL 20 simulations of the Capitals' scheduled games. Some of the players have even gotten involved joining the broadcast or reacting to the game results. So now, we have Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin providing commentary plus actual players reacting to a video game simulation. What a time to be alive.

Nicklas Backstrom was the star of the first game that was broadcast on NBC Sports Washington -- a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on March 24 -- with a hat trick performance. The real Backstrom gave a FaceTime interview afterward and said, "I don't do hat tricks that often, so it was nice to seal it off with a hat trick. You see what happens when you can't hear Ovi scream all the time for the puck."

On Wednesday, Backstrom joined the media for a Zoom video conference and was asked about that very answer. He quickly clarified that it was meant as a joke.

"You know what?" he said. "I felt so awkward doing that interview to be honest. I'm like, I've got to try to make this funny as possible. I don't know how to answer questions about simulation games. That was obviously a joke."

When you think about a real person having to do an interview about their digital player's performance, you can see how things could get awkward pretty quickly. Then again, if Ovechkin were always calling for the puck it would not be that surprising. He is, after all, one of the greatest goal scorers of all time. He could be forgiven for wanting the puck on his stick as often as possible.

Backstrom, however, said of Ovechkin that he doesn't need to call for the puck. Part of what makes him great is his ability to find the best place to be to score at all times.

"I think looking at it, [Ovechkin's] never yelling for the puck," Bacsktrom said. "He's just that good of a goal-scorer and I'm happy to give him the puck every time too. I was just trying to make that funny interview."

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Hath's Heroes is keeping Garnet Hathaway busy during the quarantine

Hath's Heroes is keeping Garnet Hathaway busy during the quarantine

Like the rest of us, Capitals' winger Garnet Hathaway is just trying to stay sane and helping out where he can.

His charity, Hath's Heroes, which provides meals to first responders, is especially important in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Hath's Heroes started working with Capitals' Chef Robert "Robbie" Wood to provide even more meals to first responders, which Wood is matching, plus an additional meal to a high-risk individual in need.

“Chef Robbie has been serving the Caps for a long time and makes unbelievable food, I can attest to it, and they also have a great initiative with Kid Power and DC Central Kitchen," Hathaway said on the Capitals Talk Podcast.

While many are fortunate to be able to work from home or be with family during the pandemic, first responders are out on the front lines.

“It’s the social responsibility of staying safe, keeping your distance and trying to stay healthy and protecting those around you," Hathaway said. "So I feel that’s where we can all feel great about helping somebody, by taking responsibility for your actions and helping out if you can."


Doing one's part is important to flatten the curve and Hathaway says donations of any amount are appreciated.

“For donations, if you can, if you have the opportunity to and you’re capable of, any amount really does make a difference.”

When he's not working with Hath's Heroes, Hathaway has been spending time with his fianceé and dog and trying to learn the Harmonica he got for Christmas. "Silent Night" was the first song he learned to play.

“Months away from the Christmas season, but I think I’ll be ready by then," Hathaway said.

Aside from downtime, Hathaway has taken solace in finding structure in his day.

“I think the biggest thing is trying to find a structure that works, that I can stay physically healthy and mentally healthy." 

“For everyone that’s feeling cooped up in their house, they gotta stay active and they gotta get some fresh air and they gotta stay healthy," Hathaway said.

While everyone has been binge-watching Netflix's hit documentary "Tiger King," Hathaway says he hasn't had the opportunity to watch yet.

“I might be the only person in America not watching Tiger King, but that’s not to say that I won’t get there at some point."

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.