Thanksgiving is supposed to be the time of year when we’re grateful for stuff, but you miserable little goblins just had to slander Caps defender Nick Jensen. So, instead of being content and spatchcocking the good good bird, I’ve gotta defend my boy.
Jensen has the worst plus/minus on the team with a minus-7, but that’s a trash stat for trash people, so let’s use five-on-five goal differential instead.
Okay, now he’s minus-8. So, uh, um, that’s not better. My apologies to the goblins. I guess we can safely stipulate that opponents have outscored the Caps when Jensen is on the ice. Now, let’s try to figure out why.
The next couple tables are five-on-five numbers for Washington’s main defenders. I’ve broken it into a couple different groups of stats, but all these data are from Natural Stat Trick. The players are ordered by time on ice. The color-coding is relative to all NHL defenders with at least two hours of ice time.
This table shows Washington’s offense rates, measured in shot attempts (CF/60) and scoring chances (SCF/60), as well as opponent rates against the Caps (CA/60 and SCA/60). Jensen is just below even in overall percentages (Caps control 48 percent of shot attempts and 49 percent of scoring chances), but let’s go another level deeper.
Jensen’s red 50 for CF/60 and red 25 for SCF/60 mean the Caps take a lower rate of shot attempts and scoring chances than league average, but those low rates are practically offset by similarly low rates for opponents. So the Caps don’t have a lot of offense, but they also aren’t giving up a lot of chances in their own end. Jensen is a low-event player. That part is important, and we’ll come back to it, but let’s look at goals now.
This table still shows Washington’s offense rates, but this time it’s measured in goals (GF/60) and expected goals (xGF/60, using Natural Stat Trick’s reckoning), as well as opponent rates against the Caps (GA/60 and xGA/60).
Jensen’s 36 percent of on-ice goals is terrible. His 46 percent for on-ice expected goals is way better but still below even. The same effects we saw for shot attempt and scoring chances are at play here, but now they’re magnified. The Caps don’t have much offense during Jensen’s shifts, but they’re even worse than we’d expect. The next table explains why.
Caps skaters are shooting a team-low 6.1 percent when Jensen is on the ice, and Caps goalies are saving a near-team-low of 90.9 during the same. That results in a PDO (a meaningless acronym that just adds up shooting and saving percentages) of 0.97. Out of 211 NHL defenders with at least two hours on the ice, Jensen’s PDO ranks 173rd. Effectively, that means that — for reasons mostly beyond Jensen’s control — the on-ice results measured in goals are way worse than they oughta be based on his underlying play.
But that’s not the whole story.
This table shows Jensen with his three most common partners. The color-coded values are the share of shot attempts (CF%) that the Caps control when those two defenders are on the ice together. Jensen has been respectable with Orlov and Siegenthaler, but struggled quite a bit in a 35-minute sample with Kempny. The right-most column dispositive: Jensen’s partners have done much better when away from him.
I think that difference speaks to an important distinction in Jensen’s style. Unlike almost every other Caps player, Jensen tends to slows the pace of play. There’s a lot of virtue in that style, but it tends to clash with other players — especially when that play-slowing leads to lowered offense rates, which this impact map from HockeyViz illustrates well.
In this map, blue means the Caps take fewer shots from that location compared to league average; red means more. A big blue blob in front of the opponent’s net is not good, but the overall drop of 12 percent offense is worst.
But it’s important to note that Jensen is doing fine work in his end of the ice.
That’s not quite as strong as I would like from a defensively minded player like Jensen, but it’s still better than league average and probably best among all Caps full-time defenders.
Personally, I prefer high-event hockey, but having a player like Jensen on the team is a good thing. I wish he could better activate the Caps offense, but that’s now why you goblins are cranky about him. Your grumpiness is probably due to the distortions of small, early-season samples that allow volatile shooting and saving percentages (PDO) to make him seem terrible right now. Jensen is not terrible, but he should be better. I think he’ll get there.
Alright, goblins. Have a lovely Thanksgiving. I love all of you miserable little monsters.
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