CalleJohansson

Johansson (red) laughs during the preseason Capitals Alumni Game. (Photo: Chris Gordon)

The Washington Capitals’ defense allows the second most shots per game in the NHL. They’ve put perhaps their best defensive prospect, Dmitry Orlov, through recall-scratch-repeat hell. Now that Orlov is finally playing, he’s paired with a guy who has a similar skill set, Mike Green.

Then there’s the frequent shuffling of the Caps blue line deck. Due to injuries, on-ice struggles, waiver pickups, and call-ups from the minors, Washington has used twelve different defenseman this season. Just about every blue liner in the organization has gotten a shot as part of the 2013-14 Caps D corps.

As we head towards the stretch run, the Caps seemed to have settled on a lineup for now: John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mike Green, Dmitry OrlovJohn Erskine, and Connor Carrick. Though Washington’s defense has been its biggest flaw, its recent improvement may also their best chance at making — and succeeding — in the playoffs.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with assistant coach Calle Johansson, the man who runs the Caps’ blue line, and asked him about some of his decisions, including some of the positives from this season.

The full transcript is below.

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ovechkin-jablonski

After the Washington Capitals’ morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center, several players had a chance to meet Jack Jablonski, the now 18-year-old Minnesotan who was paralyzed after being hit from behind during a high school hockey game.

Instead of becoming a sob story, Jablonski has become an inspirational figure in hockey. Here’s his story, beautifully told by ESPN 360.

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carlson-smiles

As Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson made his way onto the ice this morning, he was treated to a bit of a surprise. His teammates gave him a rousing stick salute, a day after being named to the United States’ Olympic Hockey Team.

Carlson’s nomination was a bit of a surprise; it took a lot of hard work to play his way onto the roster.

That fact does not seem to be lost on his teammates.

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Photos of John Carlson at The White House

Carlson

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Washington Capitals defenseman and everybody’s favorite bro from New Jersey, John Carlson, was named to the United States Olympic Team a few hours ago. But you already knew that. What you didn’t know, however, was to celebrate, the Caps scheduled Carlson to hold a press conference at 7pm in front of The White House.

It’s the third time over the past two decades that the team has used the White House as a backdrop, a rare occurance. It’s always cool, well minus one of the players that was involved. Let’s review!

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USA Hockey 2014 Olympic Portraits

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

Over the summer, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson was invited to Team USA’s orientation camp held at the Caps’ practice facility in Ballston, Virginia. At that point in time, Carlson was a bit of an afterthought for the team: he was arguably there more to excite the hometown fans than actually challenge for a roster spot.

Four months later, Carlson, after taking advantage of more opportunity due to injuries on the Caps blue line, was named to Team USA’s roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The announcement was made on NBC after the Winter Classic.

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That Sucked: Pens Blank Caps 4-0

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:( (Photo credit: Rob Carr)

Ian Oland birthday card of the night. (Photo credit: Brouwer Rangers)

Ian Oland birthday card of the night. (Photo credit: Brouwer Rangers)

A few years ago, the Washington Capitals-Pittsburgh Penguins rivalry was the NHL’s top draw. Led by the league’s best players, the teams spawned epic playoff series and fantastic regular season games. Eventually, though, Sidney Crosby got hurt and Alex Ovechkin got stale. For the past couple seasons, Caps-Pens has been a bit hollow.

This year, however, Ovi vs. Sid is relevant again: Crosby came into the game tied for the league lead in points, Ovechkin was tied for the lead in goals. Wednesday, the Caps were just one point behind the Pens for the Metropolitan division lead. With NBC in town, the good old days of the late ’00s were back — even if Brooks Laich didn’t give a crap.

Unfortunately, the game was less Snovechkin and more 2009 Semifinals game seven.

Paul Martin put the Pens up early through a screen that make Braden Holtby look foolish. Rejected Gossip Girl character Beau Bennett stretched the lead to two on a two-on-four — yes two-on-four — for Pittsburgh midway through the first. The second frame was utterly boring until ya boy Sidney Crosby unleashed an Ovi shot from the Ovi spot on the power play to put the Pens up by three. James Neal added another in the third.

Worst. Pens Blank Caps 4-0.

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John Carlson celebrates - Derek Leung

Photo: Derek Leung

The Washington Capitals remain weak at even-strength, so they’ve been relying dearly on their electric power play to win games. The Caps have scored a respectable 42 goals at even strength, but they lead the league in power play goals with 21. I’d say those power play goals are primarily responsible for the team’s plus-10 goal differential.

The PP unit’s de facto quarterback has always been Mike Green, at least when he’s healthy. Green has played 79.5% of the Caps’ power play time, second only to Alex Ovechkin. Green had recorded 7 points, all assists, all primary, on the power play before suffering a lower-body injury in the overtime win over the Blue Jackets on November 12th. In Green’s absence, the position of PPQB1 has fallen to John Carlson. 

Unlike the goalless Green, Carlson has scored twice on the power play this season– once in Glendale and again vs St Louis. So it makes sense that reader Chris R. would ask:

A good question, and one that may be pressing as early as Wednesday night when Green may return to play the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Vine via @recordsANDradio

Don’t look now, but Washington Capitals defenseman/dudebro John Carlson has five goals — all in the last eight games. He’s on fire right now right now. If he keeps this pace up, he’ll score 20 goals this season.

So that’s probably why Carly let out a roar after that power play goal during the second period of the St. Louis Blues game. Look at Carly infinitely punch!

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carlson-wilson

For nearly two full periods, Tuesday’s night’s game was mind-numbingly dull. But then, Troy Brouwer fumbled the puck in spectacular fashion on the power play, putting the Columbus Blue Jackets up 1-0. The next Caps power play went a little a better.

Skating into the offensive zone, Martin Erat fought for the puck near far circle with Columbus defenseman Dalton Prout — yes, that’s a real name — as John Carlson and Tom Wilson drove towards the front of the net. As Erat approached, he was tripped by Prout. Falling over, Marty made a brilliant pass to the front of the net, connecting with Carlson. JCar scored for his fourth goal in six games. Carlson also fell over as he contacted the puck, crashing into CSN’s goal cam. Wilson, eager to celebrate, then tripped over Carlson’s legs, himself tumbling into the net.

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Alex Ovechkin is Doing The Troll Face A Lot Lately

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Every NHL player gets an allotment of tickets for games. It’s written in the CBA. Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin apparently had a milestone day in this regard, as Mike Green reports on his Twitter account that Ovi has given away his tickets for the first time ever. John Carlson is the beneficiary. No big deal, but there is a reason we’re writing.

Check out the photo. Ovi knows what the internet wants, and he delivers the troll face for the second time in two days. John Carlson is notable just because he is not yelling or grimacing for the first time. And there’s good ol’ Steve “Norris” Oleksy poking his head out between Ovi and Carlson’s torsos. Why not. They won three in a row.

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