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2014-15 Rink Wrap: Matt Niskanen

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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. Next up, Matt Niskanen.

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):

Niskanen card

Niskanen partners

Niskanen usage

Niskanen's Rolling Shot-Attempt (Corsi) -For Percentage (2007-15):

Niskanen Rolling CF

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

Niskanen HERO

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

Niskanen HA

Previous Rink Wraps: None

Key Stat: Niskanen's 10 power-play points were third among Caps' defensemen, and marked the second-highest total of his career behind only the 15 he had last season.

Interesting Stat: No Caps' blueliner had a higher differential between penalties taken and drawn than Niskanen, who took 21 minors and drew only four during the regular season.

The Good: The Caps made a splash last summer when they signed Niskanen and fellow former Penguin Orpik to hefty free-agent contracts, and over the course of the 2014-15 season, Niskanen did a pretty good job validating the $5.75 million deal he was given on July 1.

Like the majority of the Caps' blueline, he lucked into good health, and as a result he appeared in all 82 games for the first time in his career. He set a career high in average ice time with 22:21 per game, second on the team behind only John Carlson, and used that time to become a regular contributor to the team's offense, checking in with 27 assists and 31 points on the year - a slight (and not unexpected) dip from his production from the previous season, but both of which were enough to rank third among the team's defensemen in points.

He also finished second in power-play goals with four (despite averaging just 1:03 a night with the extra man), but was strong at even strength as well, with 20 of his 31 points away from the power-play. His 52% Corsi-for rate at five-on-five trailed only Mike Green among Caps' defensemen who appeared in at least half of the season's games, and while off a bit from last year, was still in line with the possession numbers he's put up over the course of his career. On top of that, no defenseman was on the ice for a higher rate of Caps' scoring chances than Niskanen during the regular season.

The Bad: As noted above, it wasn't that surprising that Niskanen wasn't able to maintain the torrid scoring rate he put up last year - but he did fall significantly short of that mark, with 15 fewer points in one more game played, and also saw his shots-for, Corsi-for and Fenwick-for rates drop in his first season with the Caps. He also took 21 minor penalties, fourth-most on the team and second behind Orpik among Caps' defenseman, while drawing only four penalties the other way.

But it was in the playoffs where things sort of fell apart for Niskanen. After posting an SAT of 98 in regular season, which led all Caps' D, he dropped to -11 in the playoffs, trailing only Tim Gleason among Caps' defensemen. He also was on the ice for a greater rate of high-danger scoring chances than any other Washington blueliner, with opponents averaging 17.99 chances per 60 at even strength - and 84 total - when #2 was patrolling the Caps' zone. Beyond all that, no Caps' defenseman had a front seat to more goals than Niskanen during the postseason run, with 13 of the 28 goals against given up on his watch.

The Video:

The Vote: Rate Niskanen 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: After spending most of the 2014-15 season alongside Karl Alzner, is that where you see him playing next year or do you think there's a better fit for him elsewhere on the blueline? How much will his role change next season if Mike Green decides to leave? Does his lackluster performance in the playoffs this year concern you going forward? What would it take for you to give him a "10" next year?

Niskanen