“It seems like anything he wants, it goes in — passes, shots, plays — and it is good for us,” Ovechkin said.
As of Wednesday morning, Carlson led the league in points with 20 (five goals, 15 assists) after scoring twice Tuesday against the Flames.
The 29-year-old extended his point streak to eight games, matching his career high. He became the fourth defenseman in NHL history to record 20-plus points in October and is the fastest defenseman to 20 since Paul Coffey did it in 10 games in 1988-89. Carlson is the third defenseman to lead the league in scoring through the first 20 days of the season (Baldy Northcott, 1932-33; Bobby Orr, 1969-70 and 1974-75).
Asked how it felt to be in the company of players such as Orr and Coffey, Carlson responded, “Yeah, that they are a lot better players than me. But it’s pretty cool, obviously great players in that list, and you know I’m just happy to be among them.”
Carlson insists some of his points were “lucky,” repeatedly calling scoring for defensemen “streaky” and he just needs to “take it when he can get it.”
Carlson’s first goal Tuesday was a hopeful shot that seemed to catch Calgary goaltender Cam Talbot by surprise as it went into the short side for the goal. His empty-netter late in the game was a bouncer that found the net.
And while any player needs a couple of bounces to go his way during the season, goaltender Braden Holtby said Carlson’s overall game Tuesday, especially in the defensive zone alongside Michal Kempny, was “phenomenal.”
Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said Carlson continues to earn all the praise sent his way over the first three weeks of the season.
“He’s our main guy back there, that’s for sure,” Reirden said.
Over the past two seasons, Carlson has been in the Norris discussion, finishing in the top five in voting both years but never among the top three. Last season, one in which he earned an all-star nod for the first time, Carlson was fourth after tallying 70 points (13 goals, 57 assists). The year before, Carlson finished fifth after leading all defensemen with 68 points.
While Carlson chooses to remain humble, his teammates will gladly do the talking for him. Ovechkin always will be one of the first to promote Carlson, as will Nicklas Backstrom, who over the past few years has been outspoken about Carlson not getting enough recognition around the league.
Carlson also was chosen as an alternate captain this season, taking over a role played by Brooks Orpik. Carlson is being relied on more than ever before to be the leader on the blue line, and so far, he has done that and more.
“He’s a terrific player first of all, and to see him dominant the way he does it is pretty incredible,” Backstrom said. “He is not really chasing points, either. He is a really good defenseman, plays really solid back there. Points are just going his way, I think, and I’m happy for him.”
Carlson is impressing his opponents, too. Calgary captain Mark Giordano said he equates Carlson to a high-powered forward, having to account for him on the ice at all times and making sure to take away time and space.
“I’ve seen some pretty hot starts, but I’ve never seen something like this,” Giordano said. “Really impressive. He’s always been a guy that puts up numbers, and he is right up there offensively year in and year out.”
Carlson’s play has been crucial to the Capitals’ recent success. Washington is on a four-game winning streak after taking the first two games of a five-game trip that continues Thursday against Edmonton.
“I think he took a step forward obviously in his game, and his confidence is really high,” Ovechkin said. “That’s why I said, ‘Johnny for Norris!’ ”
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