On Thursday night, the Washington Capitals stopped history in its tracks when they ended the Columbus Blue Jackets 16-game streak with a 5-0 victory.
While the win was certainly exciting, Nate Schmidt was the most entertaining part of the night. Schmidt scored his first goal in 67 games to extend the Caps lead to 3-0. He also sung and danced to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It off” in a video shown during the second period.
Taylor Chorney scored on Sunday night to give the Capitals a win over the Ottawa Senators. The game-winner was a great release from far out to become Chorney’s first goal of the season.
That performance gives Barry Trotz a conundrum: When the Caps host the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, should Chorney get another sweater, or should he play Sunday’s healthy scratch, Nate Schmidt, instead?
Another way to ask that question would be this: Should the Capitals ice one of the league’s worst defensive pairs or one of the best?
According to the Caps official Twitter account, Taylor Chorney is in for Nate Schmidt tonight.
Over the course of 82 games, in-game and lineup decisions over a small handful of games aren’t worth looking too far into. So, this season when the Caps have sat Schmidt in favor of Chorney, it’s been pretty easy to write it off as needing to get Chorney work. And hey, it’s only one game so sitting Schmidt isn’t a huge deal.
Until it is a huge deal. Schmidt continues to absolutely dominate on the Caps third pairing. His name should be written in the lineup in permanent marker every single night. And while it may feel petty to care about a lineup decision for one game, this kind of decision making process is what leads to Mike Weber getting a sweater for a playoff game.
Brooks Orpik entered the season looking at a reduced role. Formerly deployed as a shutdown defender during his time in Washington, Orpik’s injuries, age, and the continued emergence of Dmitry Orlov have caused Barry Trotz and his staff to pencil in Orpik on the third defensive pairing.
Thus far, the results have been outstanding and, to many people, pleasantly surprising. There are a lot of factors that go into Orpik’s improved play this season. The veteran defender certainly deserves credit for accepting the role and seemingly simplifying his game.
Many people will point to Orpik’s sheltered minutes being a huge factor in his strong play, and it’s no doubt played a part. But not all third pairings are created equal. Orpik’s play on the third pair with Taylor Chorney this season has paled in comparison to his play on the third pair with Nate Schmidt. And Schmidt, for as much as he thrives on the Caps third pairing, as most any defender has under the Trotz regime, has shown an ability to play well in bigger roles. So, while being on the third pairing helps, this is far from the only reason Orpik and Schmidt have been such a strong pair.
One thing that seems clear is that Orpik benefits greatly from skating with Schmidt.
Peter introduced the weekly snapshot during the 2013 season. The snapshot is a weekly look at Caps players in a few key statistical areas. Looking at these numbers can help us not only analyze what has happened but also allow us to take a more educated guess as to what is going to happen in the future.
People have told me they feel intimidated by advanced stats or think they aren’t good at math, and so they’ve never tried to understand them. Here’s the good news: the stats are really easy to understand and use elementary school-level math.
After Friday’s practice, Caps players — including Alex Ovechkin — met the Wish Kids they are playing for on Hockey Fights Cancer Night. Judging from the photos and video on social media, Nate Schmidt definitely had the most fun.
The Human Emoji first met with seven-year-old Amanda, who is battling leukemia, at his locker stall. The two chatted and then Schmidt worked the room. It was at that point, CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Jill Sorenson, noted that the magnetic Caps defenseman had become a “human jungle gym.”
Watch as several kids lay on top of him playing. It’s the best.
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