Capitals

Capitals

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.

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