As we settle into the new season, we’ll be bringing in some new voices to our Japers’ Rink family. One “new” voice should be plenty familiar to readers of Caps blogs, though - you probably know his excellent work from our pals over at Russian Machine Never Breaks where he was a senior editor, and he’s now brought his talents to our little corner of the internet. Please welcome Chris Gordon to the Rink crew!
On January 9, 2018, John Carlson, the Washington Capitals’ top defenseman, scored his fifth goal of the season against the Vancouver Canucks. It was 43 games into Washington’s 2017-2018 Stanley Cup-winning campaign.
A few weeks after triumphing over the rest of the NHL, the Capitals reworked their roster to fund 28-year-old blueliner’s massive new 8-year, $64 million contract after a career-best season.
Thus far, Carlson has lived up to his end of the bargain. On Monday night, the American scored his fifth goal of the young season, again against Vancouver. It came after a mere eight games.
Carlson is only the 10th NHL defenseman to score five goals in his team’s first eight contests of the season. He has hit the back of the net in three-straight games.
Carlson added two assists, setting up two triumphant power play blasts, the first goals Washington has scored on the man-advantage away from Capital One Arena.
Carlson’s tally was a masterwork. Initially following the play from the back, he became a fourth forward for Washington as Jakub Vrana got the jump on Vancouver’s defense. Carlson then decided to blow through the speed trap -- NBC Sports Washington nabbed him skating 20 miles per hour -- and flew past three Canucks skaters into the slot, intercepting a sublime pass from Vrana to tip the puck past goaltender Anders Nilsson.
Just over two minutes after puck drop, Carlson had ignited the Capitals offense days after Washington’s dreadful start against the Florida Panthers.
“Today we had a very good start,” captain Alex Ovechkin told reporters. “Good to get the first one in. It gave our team confidence, and we felt that way the whole game.”
Number 74 almost added another goal, which at the time would have tied Ovechkin for the team lead, but instead the puck rang off the crossbar. Carlson also nearly returned the favor to Vrana later in the game, feeding the young Czech winger in front. Vrana fired a wrist shot just over the net.
However, ludicrous offensive numbers tell only part of the story. Carlson has shelled out his $64 million body for team-leading 14 blocked shots. Critically, he eats up minutes for the Capitals, ranking second in the NHL in time on ice per game.
Carlson now has 13 points, making him the second-highest scoring d-man in the NHL this year. But Carlson doesn’t want to be second in anything.
“I want to be the best defenseman in the league every single year,” Carlson said after re-signing with the Capitals.