According to the Caps official Twitter account, Taylor Chorney is in for Nate Schmidt tonight.
Over the course of 82 games, in-game and lineup decisions over a small handful of games aren’t worth looking too far into. So, this season when the Caps have sat Schmidt in favor of Chorney, it’s been pretty easy to write it off as needing to get Chorney work. And hey, it’s only one game so sitting Schmidt isn’t a huge deal.
Until it is a huge deal. Schmidt continues to absolutely dominate on the Caps third pairing. His name should be written in the lineup in permanent marker every single night. And while it may feel petty to care about a lineup decision for one game, this kind of decision making process is what leads to Mike Weber getting a sweater for a playoff game.
Nate Schmidt currently ranks third among all NHL defensemen in shot attempt percentage with a heavenly 57.4 percent. This is three percent better than any of the Caps’ other blue liners.
Further, the Caps suppress shot attempts better with Schmidt on the ice than any other defender, as the team allows just 44 shot attempts per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play when the 88 car is on the ice.
Sure, you can argue that Schmidt is on the third pairing and his numbers benefit from this. But, if the deployments were the main reason for his success, then Chorney would be just as successful when he steps in for Schmidt. Well, here’s the thing, he’s not.
For starters, the Orpik/Schmidt pairing is *number one in the league* among all defensive pairings in shot attempt percentage. Keeping this pairing together should be an absolute no-brainer for any coach.
The Caps third pairing goes from the best third pairing in the league to downright incompetent when Chorney steps in for Schmidt. Here’s how the third pairing has done with Schmidt vs with Chorney in terms of shot attempts.
The difference between a team that gets 59 percent of the shot attempts vs a team that gets 41 percent of the shot attempts is a wider spread than the difference between the best team in the league and the worst team in the league
Here’s the same pairs with scoring chances
MIND THE Y-AXIS! Small sample noise is some of what’s at play here, but the Caps have just 13 percent of the overall scoring chances when Orpik and Chorney are on the ice together.
Chorney probably deserves some minutes at some point. And his numbers with Orpik are bound to go up over the long haul. But none of this is an excuse for scratching Schmidt who has handled his role as a third pairing defenseman as well as any defender in the league has handled their respective role this season.
Stop scratching Nate Schmidt. It’s a terrible coaching decision.
Headline photo: Patrick Smith
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