Sep. 26, 2016
Capitals primed for Cup run after Shattenkirk trade
Even though they may win the President’s Trophy for the second consecutive year, the Washington Capitals weren’t satisfied with their current team. As strong as it is, it’s largely the same team that bowed out to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of last season’s playoffs.
Tuesday, the Capitals went big and traded for Kevin Shattenkirk, the best defenseman on the trading market. Shattenkirk comes to Washington averaging 0.23 goals created per game and a Corsi For (calculates how long a team controls the puck while this player is on the ice at even strength) of 55.2 percent while with the Blues. With so much star power in Washington, these stats will only continue to improve.
What especially hurt the Capitals in the 2016 playoffs was depth scoring and poor defensive play. Washington already addressed its forward depth in the offseason when it acquired Brett Connolly and Lars Eller, who have added 13 and 10 goals, respectively. However, there was still work to be done on the blue line.
For the past couple seasons, the Capitals defensive corps has been led by John Carlson and Matt Niskanen but the duo was not enough to get out of the second round. Washington has struggled to find options to fill its defensive depth.
One of last year’s mid-season acquisitions, Mike Weber, floundered as a Capital. The defenseman posted a Corsi for of 46 percent in only 10 games, meaning that the Capitals did not control the puck as much when Weber was on the ice. Additionally, he averaged 2.8 penalty minutes a game. Advanced statistics aside, Weber’s time as a Capital will probably be best remembered for his in Game 4 of the series against the Penguins.
In Shattenkirk, the Capitals believe that they have their fourth defenseman. Scoring has not been a problem for Washington, as it is third in the NHL with 3.32 goals per game. They all have the best goals against mark, only allowing 2.08 goals per game. Shattenkirk will improve both areas as well as the NHL’s fifth best power play (22.1 percent).
The trio of Niskanen, Carlson and Shattenkirk gives the Capitals the East’s best defensive corps. Any one of those three could be another team’s top defenseman, yet they all play for the Capitals.
The scariest thing about the Capitals right now is that they are the NHL’s best team without Alex Ovechkin scoring goals at a league-leading rate. His 27 goals are tied for ninth in the NHL and his 0.44 goals per game is tied for 14th. With another strong puck-moving defenseman in Shattenkirk joining the mix, Ovechkin’s scoring will only increase.
Though Shattenkirk is a free agent after the season, this is a trade that the Capitals had to make. Ten other players, including T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, are free agents following this season and the time is now for the Capitals to go all in because they will not be able to retain the majority of those players.
They already were a threat to win the Stanley Cup before the addition of Shattenkirk, but now the Capitals need to be taken seriously. This isn’t the teams of the past that scored a lot, but suddenly couldn’t in the postseason. This Washington team has finally made the right decision by improving its defensive depth instead of adding another big forward.