Plus-minus rating is one way to gauge an NHL player's success while he is on the ice.
The statistic can be a little confusing, however. So here's a quick synopsis by Jamie Fitzpatrick of About.com:
When an even-strength or shorthanded goal is scored, every player on the ice for the team scoring the goal is credited with a "plus." Every player on the ice for the team scored against gets a "minus." A player's overall total is calculated by subtracting the minuses from the pluses. A high plus total is taken to mean that a guy is a good defensive player.
So, which five Washington Capitals will have the best plus-minus stats in 2013-14?
Let's have a look.
Note: All statistics updated through Oct. 20 courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.
So far, Karl Alzner has had a solid beginning to his season.
He is tenth on the team in plus-minus rating with a minus-two, which is fourth-best among defensemen. Alzner has managed this while logging the second-most shifts and the third highest time-on-ice per game among Capitals' blue liners.
Here's something to keep in mind as the season progresses. In 271 games over six seasons, Alzner has a plus-minus rating of plus-15. Furthermore, if he finishes the season with a plus rating, it would be only the third such rating in his career.
But Erat is playing well when he gets on the ice. He is currently tied for the team lead in plus-minus rating at plus-one. And with a recent shuffling of the forward lines that saw Erat promoted to the second line, new linemate Brooks Laich thinks Erat's numbers could improve as a result, according to Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com:
He hasn’t played a lot of minutes, so he’s coming in with a lot of hunger. We know he’s going to be flying. We’ve all been there and you almost want to give it to the coach and say, ‘Play me, because I can do this.’ Marty’s going to come in with that fire.
One area in particular where Erat can channel "that fire" is on the penalty kill. Despite his overall lack of ice time, Erat still ranks fifth among Capitals' forwards in short-handed time-on-ice per game at 1:34. If Erat contributes to any short-handed goals this season, his plus-minus rating will receive a boost as a result.
In his very brief NHL career, Steve Oleksy has been a defensively responsible player. This has been reflected in his plus-minus rating.
During the 2012-13 season, Oleksy had a plus-nine rating, fourth best on the team.
This season, Oleksy has an even rating, which ranks third on the team in plus-minus rating.
Expect the 27-year-old Michigan native to finish in the top five in plus-minus by the end of the season.
Nicklas Backstrom is a plus player.
In his seven seasons in the NHL, Backstrom has a career plus-minus rating of plus-90, ranking second in franchise history. That is best among Washington forwards.
The Swedish center has finished with a minus rating only once, when he logged a minus-four in 2011-12.
Backstrom currently has the same plus-minus rating this season. That number will not stay that low all season long.
Mikhail Grabvoski was demoted prior to the team's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 19. Chuck Gormley of CSNWashington.com reported that Grabovski would be skating on the third line between Jason Chimera and Joel Ward.
Head coach Adam Oates explained the line changes to Katie Carrera of The Washington Post via Twitter:
Oates on line changes: “I felt that a couple guys weren’t playing good enough for the minutes they’re getting and they need to know that”— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) October 18, 2013
Grabovski's demotion was not because of his plus-minus rating. Right now Grabovski has a minus-one rating and is currently seventh on the team in plus-minus rating.
To lead this team for the entire season, Grabovski will need a plus rating. It would be only the third plus rating in his eight-year career, in which he has a minus-eight rating overall.