A Washington Capitals defenseman probably won’t win the Norris Trophy this season. In fact, there probably won’t even be one in the conversation.
But what the Caps lack (an elite blue-liner, to be specific), they’re at least trying to make up for in balance and fresh legs.
Consider: after Washington’ first eight games, the most ice time a Caps d-man has averaged is 23:14, by newcomer Matt Niskanen. Currently, there are 13 NHL d-men who are above 25:00. Minnesota’s Ryan Suter leads the way at 28:23. Niskanen ranks No. 30 on the list.
“We use our three sets (of d-men) so you don’t find guys playing 28 or 29 minutes,” coach Barry Trotz said, per NHL.com. “What I do see is Mike Green playing 28 minutes like he did last year, or 27, and now 20 minutes this year, he’s got a lot more juice to do what he does best and that is deliver the puck and be a part of the offense.”
Green’s reduced workload seems to be working, to the tune of three goals and five assists. Among NHL d-men, only San Jose’s Brent Burns has more points (12) than Green’s eight.
What’s more, the offseason additions of veterans Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, after the Caps made it no secret that “upgrading the defense was our top priority,” have allowed John Carlson to play slightly less. The 24-year-old finished last season averaging a team-high 24:30; he’s at 23:09 now.
Washington (4-2-2) hosts Detroit (4-2-2) tonight (on NBCSN).
PS — The Caps used quite a few d-men last season…