Matt Niskanen lost a month to injury early in the season. When he came back, the team required him to do more than he’d ever done before.
|22.6||time on ice per game|
|49.1||5-on-5 shot-attempt percentage, adjusted|
|56.8||5-on-5 goal percentage, adjusted|
About this visualization: This series of charts made by Micah Blake McCurdy of hockeyviz.com shows various metrics for the player over the course of the season. A short description of each chart:
On October 13, just five games into the season, Niskanen got slashed by New Jersey’s Jimmy Hayes, causing a hand injury and costing him a full month of play. That injury wreaked all kinds of chaos on the Caps blue line: forcing Brooks Orpik to play way more than anyone wanted him to, pushing John Carlson near 30 minutes a night, and thrusting untested players like Chorney and Bowey into high-leverage situations. It was a terrible start for a blue line that couldn’t afford an early setback.
I hoped when Niskanen returned, it would mark a reset for him and the blue line, but that didn’t happen. His on-ice shot-attempt percentage marked a career low at 48.5 percent before adjustments, though we should note that his playing context was the toughest it’s been in Washington: better opponents, more ice time, and fewer offensive zone starts.
|Season||TOI||OZS%||Comp: TOI||Comp: SA||Comp: xG|
Above are measurements of usage: Time on ice per game (TOI), Offensive-zone start percentage (OZS%), and three measurements for the quality of Niskanen’s competition by their average time on ice (TOI), shot-attempt percentage (SA), and expected goals (xG). All via Corsica.
Niskanen and his partner Orlov got fed to the wolves because they were the only pairing Barry Trotz fully trusted until late in the year. And while I’m still curious if Niskanen nursed an injury throughout the season, I think the more extreme usage and systemic depression could sufficiently explain his sub-par numbers.
I still think Niskanen is a world-class defenseman, but after this outing maybe I’m a bit more wary about it.
— miichael benj (@DCSlugginIt) June 2, 2018
Should we expect a bounceback from Niskanen next year? Is Orlov-Niskanen the automatic top pairing from here on out?
Read more: Japers’ Rink
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk
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