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Alex Semin's Defense

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"If you’re looking to protect a lead in the final minutes of a game, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom are better bets to provide stellar defense than [Alex Ovechkin] is." - Puck Prospectus

It's a throwaway line in a post discussing the "best player" bona fides of AO and Sidney Crosby, but the main point is probably not up for much debate - Semin and Backstrom are pretty clearly better defensive forwards than Ovechkin right now.

But a secondary point here is whether or not Alex Semin is capable of providing "stellar" defense. This shouldn't generate much disagreement either (though it did in a spirited back-and-forth on Twitter), so let's take a quick look at some numbers:

Player GP +/- Team GAA 5-on-5 GAON/60 4-on-5 GAON/60 SH TOI/GP TkA/GP
Alex Semin 62 25 2.93 2.28 5.73 1:31 1.17
Pavel Datsyuk 81 34 2.93 2.30 7.35 1:36 1.10
Mike Richards 79 22 2.83 2.35 5.34 3:12 1.05
Ryan Kesler 82 8 2.60 2.35 6.79 3:19 0.90
Henrik Zetterberg 77 13 2.93 2.57 6.14 1:49 0.55
Mikko Koivu 79 2 2.40 2.41 3.81 2:43 0.80

So why'd we pick the five players we did to join Semin on this chart? Because they were the top five finishers in Selke voting (hey, look - Semin got a pair of fourth-place votes and a fifth).

True, Semin played against generally lower competition than these other five players, and his propensity to take penalties is nothing if not troublesome. But as to the question of whether Alex Semin is capable of playing great, even stellar defense, there really isn't much of a question at all - he is... and he does.

Oh, and one last note - Mike Richards was robbed.