The Capitals have given 12 different defensemen sweaters this season — the most in the league. With those, Coach Adam Oates has put 23 different pairings on the ice during even strength, and none get more ice time as a duo than John Carlson and Karl Alzner. The two have anchored Washington’s blue line for the past four years and have seen a steady progression since their time together in Hershey.
Being the team’s most talented defensive pair means they are often tasked with shutting down the opposition’s best forwards. That’s a role Alzer relishes.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Alzner said. “The games when you do good and shut them down it is pretty rewarding. When you are playing against the top line and not having a good game, you will see it on the score sheet.”
It is not often those top forwards get a tally with Carlzner on the ice. Of the 19 skaters among the top 20 in goals faced this year, just four — Bobby Ryan, Matt Duchene, Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler — have lit the lamp during even strength. And none of them have done it more than once.
Scoring chances against also don’t come easy when Carlson and Alzner skate together, as Washington sees over 50 percent of all shot attempts go in their favor. When Carlson and Alzner are apart, those numbers suffer: Carlson without Alzner is 46.6 percent and Alzner without Carlson, 45.9 percent.
“They complement each other very well,” Capitals netminder Braden Holtby said recently. “In the Hershey days Carly was on the rush all the time and Alzy was always the defenseman hanging back, but I think they wanted to round out their games and Carly, especially, is as good defensively as he is offensively now. And [Alzner] is jumping up in the rush more. Its not exactly his comfort zone but he is doing a good job when he does it.”
Alzner has been more involved in the offense this year, personally generating 1.6 shot attempts per game during even strength, a career high.
“They are becoming very well-rounded defenseman,” Holtby said. “Talent was always there, but their capabilities are endless.”
The best part of these two very well-rounded defenseman with endless capabilities? They have a combined cost of less than $6.8 million against the cap, making it hard to imagine a better value in the NHL.