John Carlson

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For defensemen, only Bobby Orr has scored more points than John Carlson 30 games into a season

For defensemen, only Bobby Orr has scored more points than John Carlson 30 games into a season

John Carlson's case for the Norris trophy keeps growing stronger. 

After notching his 100th career goal Wednesday night in Los Angeles, he quickly netted No. 101 off a pass from TJ Oshie. 

It marked the 11th goal of the year for Carlson and his 42nd point in just 30 games. 

According to Stat Centre, Carlson tied Al MacInnis (1990-91) and Denis Potvin (1975-76) for the most points by a defenseman in the first 30 games of a season (42) since Bobby Orr tallied 56 to start the 1974-75 season. 

Both Potvin and Orr won the Norris trophy the years they pulled off this statistical feat. 

It'd be unfair to expect Carlson to keep up this pace, but he's showing no signs of slowing down two months into the season. 

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John Carlson scores 100th career goal vs. Kings

John Carlson scores 100th career goal vs. Kings

John Carlson scored his 100th career goal against the Kings Wednesday night and he did it in style. 

After stealing the puck in the defensive zone, Carlson quickly advanced it into Capitals territory before sniping a wicked wrist shot past La goalie Jonathan Quick. 

It was Carlson's 10th score of the year, which makes him well on pace to surpass his career-high of 15 he set back in 2017-18. 

The 29-year-old is in the midst of a career year with 41 points through 30 games. Last year was his best season from a points perspective. He tallied 70 points (13 G, 57 A), so he's well on track to set a new career-mark by the end of this season. 

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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.

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