Does Joe Corvo Make the Caps a Better Puck Possession Team?

"Corvo was the top defenseman available in our minds and we got him.  He plays a lot and in both ends of the rink. He defends well and kills and spends time on the penalty kill. He can also generate offense, which is the type of defenseman we like. He's averages more time on the ice than Mike Green.  He's the one guy we liked a lot and we got him, so I'm happy with the results.''  - Capitals GM George McPhee at the trade deadline


As we discussed on Japers' Rink Radio on Saturday, the addition of Joe Corvo to the Washington Capitals brought, in theory at least, both (a) increased offense from the blue line and (b) yet another defender to quickly get the puck out of the defensive end and up ice onto the tape of the stick of one of the team's formidable forwards.   

But while the Oak Park, IL native certainly provides fans with inspiration for the perfect adult beverage to enjoy an afternoon game -- a Bloody María with José Cuervo of course -- does he also bring an even greater measure of puck possession to this Caps' team going into the post-season?

Corvo's barely third in ATOI/G amongst Caps' D at 20:12 since donning Capital red.  So his on-ice performance, not to mention replacing the ice time of Brian Pothier, for whom he was dealt, and pushing down fellow blue liner John Erskine (certainly not known as a puck mover) into a reserve role, has a significant effect.  How significant?

First, Corvo's season-to-date Corsi rating puts him tops in that category amongst Caps' D (an impressive 10.96, good for 16th best in the league amongst D with at least 30 GP this season) and just ahead of Mike Green.  And second just behind Green in ratio of Corsi on-ice vs. off-ice.   By comparison, the defender for whom he was traded, Brian Pothier, has a negative Corsi rating.  (Despite what Don Cherry says, we find this "Corsi thing" to be compelling.) 

To break down one aspect of that rating, at even strength, Corvo himself has blocked 32 opposing shots and has had 51 of his shots blocked on the season, compared to Pothier blocking 70 and having 44 blocked.  That Potsy had so many opportunities to block shots tells you a bit about how much more often his opponents had the puck while he was on the ice than did Washington.

Second, Corvo's been quite adept at protecting the puck since joining the Caps, commiting just 2 giveaways in 11 GP.  Compare that to Pothier's 0.5 giveaways per game (as a Cap) and Erskine's 0.75 giveaways per game.

Third, let's look at the team's performance since Corvo joined Les Capitals, examining a few common metrics to measure puck possession:   

SF/G

SA/G

BS/G

PP/G

PK/G

Season to date

32.9

30.9

14

3.86

3.95

Since March 4*

35.4

29.7

16

3.73

3.73

Excluding the 3/20 game vs. TBL, for which Corvo was scratched.

These last discrepancies aren't much, and rarely can one skater, no matter how times he's tapped to hop over the boards, so dramatically improve a team of eighteen.  But in the playoffs, just one giveaway averted, just one more shot on goal, or just one fewer shot directed on the Caps' net, can be the difference between victory and defeat.

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