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2014-15 Rink Wrap: Karl Alzner

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From Alzner to Wilson, we're taking a look at and grading the 2014-15 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2015-16. First up, Karl Alzner.

Clyde Caplan

Japers' Rink Player Card (click for a hi-res version, and a glossary of terms used in this post can be found here; data via NHL.comwar-on-ice.comGeneral Fanager and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com):

Alzner card

Alzner Pairs

Alzner usage

Alzner's Career Rolling Shot-Attempt (Corsi) -For Percentage:

Alzner Rolling CF

Alzner's HERO Chart (via Own The Puck):

Alzner HERO

Alzner's Past Seven Seasons (via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com; click to enlarge):

Alzner HA

Key Stat: For a fifth-straight season, Alzner appeared in all 82 regular-season games, running his consecutive games played streak to 376. That's the third-longest streak in franchise history, trailing Bobby Carpenter's 422-game streak and John Carlson's current 378-game stretch.

Interesting Stat: Alzner scored three goals at Verizon Center over a 36-game span during the regular season, which is one more than he'd scored in his first 189 games at home.

The Good: Alzner set career highs in goals (five) and points (21) and tied his single-season best in assists (16) and plus/minus (+14) while bouncing back to the right side of 50% in both process- and results-focused metrics such as goals-for percentage and shot-based possession stats for the first time in years. His reduced responsibilities (as half of the team's second-pairing, and with under 20 minutes of ice time per night for the first time since he became an NHL regular) and new partner (Matt Niskanen) suited Alzner well, as the Caps saw 52% of the shots attempted go their way when Alzner and Niskanen were on the ice together at five-on-five. Alzner was active in the offensive zone in ways he's never been before, and both he and the Caps benefited from it.

Alzner was also good on the Caps' revamped penalty kill, posting the best shot-suppression numbers of the top-four defensemen, and getting commensurate results. Oh, and he wore sunglasses at the Winter Classic, which was pretty cool.

Alzner potted two goals in the first five games of the Caps' first-round series against the Islanders, and generally did a pretty good job in the playoffs. All-in-all, Barry Trotz and Todd Reirden were able to deliver what was probably Alzner's best pro season yet... with help from Alzner himself, of course.

The Bad: It's hard to know how much of Alzner's success this season was the result of his own improvements versus those that were made around him (i.e. better coaching schemes and personnel) coupled with easier assignments, especially when his five-on-five Corsi-for percentage when skating with someone other than Niskanen was a woeful 42.7% (in just 135 minutes). And for all the talk of Alzner's increased offense, his shot and attempt rates were actually down this year.

Alzner had a couple of particularly rough games in the playoffs (Game 1 against the Islanders and Game 4 against the Rangers leap to mind), and the season ended moments after a defensive-zone face-off resulting from one of Alzner's numerous icings, so that was less than ideal.

The Video:

This goal in Game 5 of the first round proved to be the eventual game-winner, and obviously a pivotal point in the series.

The Vote: Rate Alzner below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.

The Discussion: Last year, our "big question on Alzner" was whether or not he's a legitimate top-pairing defenseman on a team that aspires to be a contender, or if he slots in better in the second-pairing; it would seem that 2014-15 provided an answer. But is this as good as it gets for Alzner, or does the former lottery pick (who will be entering his eighth season in the fall) have what it takes to improve? What would it take for you to give him a "10" next year?

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