Due to increased ice time coupled with shooting the puck at a higher rate, John Carlson is currently leading the Caps in shot attempts at five-on-five this season.
On most teams, it would not be especially noteworthy that an offensively gifted defender playing nearly half of each game would attempt the most shots on the team. But the Caps are not most teams. The Caps have Alex Ovechkin who, even though he may not shoot as much as he used to, is used to taking more shots than any of his teammates by a wide margin.
Over the last four seasons (not including the current one), 55 different players have skated 500-plus minutes at five-on-five for the Caps. Ovechkin has attempted 1743 shots during the time. Carlson is in second place with 911 shot attempts.
Here’a visualization of just how much distance there is better Ovechkin and the other 54 skaters:
Ovechkin is the red bar well over 1,500. The rest of his teammates, including Carlson in second, are nowhere close.
But this season, not only are other players closer to Ovechkin, but Carlson is ahead.
As mentioned above, one of the reasons Carlson is out-shooting Ovechkin this season is an increase in ice time for the former.
But, on top of having more ice time during which to rack up shot attempts, Carlson is also shooting at a higher rate this season, while Ovechkin’s shooting less.
Ovechkin’s 19.7 shot attempts/60, while down from his rate over the previous four seasons, still ranks 10th among all forwards this season, while Carlson’s 15.5 ranks him ninth among all defenders.
For the “yeah sure, Carlson is shooting more but he never hits the net crowd,” 43.8 percent of Carlson’s shot attempts at five-on-five this season have been on goal. This ranks him 113th out of 184 defenders that have skated 125-plus minutes this season (as an aside, on the power play this season, 58.6 percent of Carlson’s shot attempts have been on goal, good for 19th among 83 defenders). So, he could stand to hit the net more at five-on-five, but a 43.8 percent mark of attempts that are on net is not a crippling weakness for a defenseman.
With a weaker roster and injuries, Carlson has taken on a bigger role this season. He’s elevated his game in many ways, one of which is shooting the puck more often.
Headline image: Cara Bahniuk
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