Washington Capitals' 5 Most Influential Players so Far in 2013-14
Certain players on the Washington Capitals have a knack for influencing games.
That includes scoring the big goal, making the perfect pass or coming up with the key defensive play.
With a 12-8-1 record, 25 points and owning first place in the Metropolitan Division standings, the Capitals have several players who have exerted their influences on a consistent basis.
Following are the Washington Capitals' five most influential players so far in the 2013-14 season.
Note: All statistics through Nov. 17 courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.
5. John Carlson, Defenseman
John Carlson may have gotten off to a slow start this season, but he's starting to exert his influence.
Carlson has scored five goals in his last eight games, with two goals coming on the power play. He has totaled seven points in that stretch.
As you can see, Carlson has a far-reaching influence, even if he was slow to get started.
4. Mikhail Grabovski, Center
Before the season began, I wrote that Mikhail Grabovski would be the Capitals' biggest X-factor in 2013-14.
The 29-year-old Belarusian has made me look like a genius.
Grabovski ranks third on the team in goals and is tied for third in assists and points. He is also tied for the team lead in plus-minus rating, and is two rating points higher than the next-best forward in that category.
Most importantly, Grabovski has helped influence the Capitals' most productive forward line. The Capitals' third line of Grabovski, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward had produced 11 goals prior to Washington's game against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. That marked the seventh-best line production in the entire league, according to LeftWingLock.com.
Grabovski's presence on the third line was supposed to be a demotion. Way to make lemonade from lemons, Grabo.
3. Joel Ward, Right Wing
Joel Ward is becoming the archetype for "opportunistic scorer" this season and has parlayed his opportunism into a career year.
Ward is first among the NHL's shooting percentage leaders at 28.1, despite ranking seventh in shots for the Capitals. His season-high total of five shots resulted in the first hat trick of his career, on Nov. 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Ward is averaging 0.43 goals per game. Over an 82-game season, that projects to 35 goals—about twice as many as Ward's career-high 17 goals in the 2008-09 season.
The hard-working winger may not be able to maintain that pace. However, if he scores one more goal, he will reach double digits in that category for the first time since joining Washington two seasons ago.
The 32-year-old Toronto native is finally becoming the influential player who the Capitals envisioned when they signed him as a free agent.
2. Nicklas Backstrom, Center
Few players on a hockey team can influence their teammates more than a point-per-game producer.
In fact, Backstrom is nearly averaging an assist per game as well this season. Technically, he is averaging 0.90 assists, and has tallied three assists in a game on three occasions. As a result of all this assistance, Backstrom is first on the Capitals in assists and tied for second in the NHL.
The 25-year-old Swede has become a shootout specialist, as well. Backstrom is tied for second in the league with four shootout goals, two of which were game-deciding goals. Furthermore, Backstrom is the only player to maintain a perfect shooting percentage while taking more than three shots.
1. Alex Ovechkin, Right Wing
Alex Ovechkin is not just exerting his influence over the Washington Capitals, he is exerting his control over the entire NHL.
The reigning Hart Trophy winner ranks first in the league in shots, and still has the third-highest shooting percentage among the top 30 players in total shots. Ovechkin is tied for the league lead in goals, first in power-play goals and is tied for fourth in game-winning goals.
If Ovechkin can even maintain that goal-scoring pace over an entire season, he would still make quite an impact. Ovechkin has already missed two games, so he can't possibly play all 82, but projecting his goal-scoring pace over 80 games would give Ovechkin 71 goals on the season. That would tie him for the 10th-highest single-season goals total in NHL history.
Very influential, indeed.