Everyone knows who the best players are on the Washington Capitals.
Alex Ovechkin. Nicklas Backstrom. Mike Green. Mike Ribeiro. Troy Brouwer.
But what about the unsung heroes? The forgotten contributors? The guys who do all the work and get none of the credit?
Here is a ranking of the three most underrated players on the Washington Capitals.
Note: All statistics are updated through April 17 and are courtesy of NHL.com, unless otherwise noted.
John Carlson's offensive skills are not underrated. In fact, that is what he's known for.
Case in point: A recent article by Ben Raby of NHL.com about the separation of Carlson from his long-time defensive partner Karl Alzner described Alzner and Carlson, respectively: "One is a left-handed stay-at-home defenseman, the other a right-handed offensive-minded defenseman."
To further support this theory, Carlson's plus-minus rating of plus-nine leads all defenders and is second on the team. Meanwhile, Alzner's minus-five is second worst on the team.
But Carlson's plus-minus rating is boosted by his offense. He has six goals and is fifth on the team with 22 points. And Alzner's plus-minus is stunted by his lack of offense. Karl has all of four points on the season.
Plus-minus rating is an overrated statistic, however, and helps hide the fact that Carlson is an excellent defender. Several other statistics can help show just how good he really is at defense, thus revealing that he is indeed an underrated defender.
Perhaps the best way to prove how much John Carlson is valued as a defender is to look at how much Adam Oates trusts him as a penalty killer. Carlson is actually first on the Capitals defense with 2:45 of short-handed time on ice per game (SHTOI/G). Karl Alzner is second with 2:28.
It's a wonder why John Carlson is primarily described as an "offensive-minded defenseman".
Center on the Washington Capitals is a high-profile position.
Both Backstrom and Ribeiro use their style of play to achieve these results. Backstrom is a master of slowing down the game, holding on to the puck almost too long before making a successful pass. Ribeiro can slither out of tight spots like no other, almost in a serpentine manner.
But the Capitals third-line center has better moves than both of them. In fact, Mathieu Perreault may have the best moves on the team. Check out the video for one recent example.
Perreault is finally putting these moves to work on a consistent basis, and the results are tangible. The 25-year-old from Drummondville is now 10th on the team with 15 points, including 10 helpers. Frequent linemate Eric Fehr recently commented to Mark Giannotto of The Washington Post about Perreault's skills, saying “when he gets in a passing groove, he’s real good. He can find guys behind the play and he’s got great passing ability.”
Eventually, others will see what Eric Fehr sees.
There is nothing Jay Beagle could possibly do to make himself more underrated.
Just look at all the boring and uninteresting chores he does for this hockey team:
- Beagle centers the fourth line of forwards: the grinders, the role players, the match-up guys. Wow. Exciting stuff.
- Jay is a faceoff specialist. In fact, he is 10th in the NHL in faceoff win percentage at 56.2 percent. No one else on the Capitals has a faceoff percentage better than...whew, that was close. I almost fell asleep typing those faceoff statistics.
- Beagle excels on the penalty kill. He has totaled 93:48 of short-handed time on ice to lead the Capitals by a wide margin. That's great, but a short-handed goal would be nice every once in awhile.
- He's an excellent defensive forward. The Capitals' 19 team goals against while Beagle is on the ice helps shed light on that ability. Meanwhile, Beagle only has two goals, seven total points and zero power play points. Seriously Jay? Two goals? Help me out here, man! I'm doing my best to make you sound exciting.
As if that weren't enough, Beagle is the least interesting player on the least interesting line. At least Matt Hendricks and Aaron Volpatti drop the gloves. Beagle does not fight. Not any more. So, he used to be cool. But not any more.
However, as I wrote this summer after he signed a contract extension with the Washington Capitals, the 27-year-old from Calgary found his role on the team by dropping the tough guy act. The Caps have improved as a result.
Jay Beagle may be boring as hell, but Capitals players like him just the way he is.