With two assists last night, including the game-winning apple, in the Capitals’ 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, John Carlson now has the second-most points on the Caps with 17 (five goals, 12 assists).
Carlson is quietly making another run for the Norris Trophy after a career year in 2019-20 where the Capitals heavily campaigned for him on social media.
Carlson’s first point against the Penguins Thursday came on a secondary assist during TJ Oshie’s one-handed diving goal. Oshie’s highlight-reel tally gave the Caps a 2-0 lead early in the third period.
After the Pens tied it up at 2-2, Carlson fed the puck to Tom Wilson in front of the net for the game-winner.
Carlson now sits fourth in points among all NHL defensemen. He trails Jeff Petry (18), Tyson Barrie (18), Victor Hedman (19), and Quinn Hughes (21).
Carlson’s early production could make him another strong contender for the Norris Trophy, an end-of-the-year award given “to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position,” according to the NHL.
Last year, Carlson was a finalist for his first Norris Trophy after leading all defensemen in points (75) and assists (60). First-time nominee, Roman Josi, from the Nashville Predators, ended up taking home the honor after having comparable stats offensively and being an overall better defender.
Carlson is once again having a huge season offensively, though he’s somewhat off his pace from the 2019-20 season where he became the fourth defenseman in NHL history to score 20 points in October.
Defensively, Carlson’s season has been less remarkable.
Out of all defensemen on the Caps who have played at least 14 games this season, Carlson has the second-worst five-on-five shot attempt percentage (47.1 percent) and holds the only negative five-on-five goal differential (minus-one). Carlson’s five-on-five scoring chance for percentage (46.2 percent) and high-danger chance for percentage (43.8 percent) are also below water. It’s the same issues that sunk his bid in 2019-20.
Although Carlson’s underlying play is somewhat concerning, he could still end up being voted a finalist for the Norris Trophy by the Professional Hockey Writers Associated just based on his offensive stat line. The PHWA typically rewards the highest-scoring defenseman every season with votes though it’s more of a tossup if they win the award outright.
Headline photo: @Capitals
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