Just counting the regular season and playoffs, John Carlson played 91 games for the Capitals in 2010-11. That’s the most of any season in the defenseman’s young career.
The fact that he didn’t miss a single game this season is quite remarkable, especially in the playoffs. Carlson suffered a hip pointer on a play late in the second period of Game 1 that apparently affected his movement and play drastically.
“When it happened, everything seized up – all the muscles in his ribs and his back,” general manager George McPhee said. “He could hardly move. Those things are rare. They don’t happen as much these days.”
Carlson missed most of the third period of that game but was back to face the Lightning in Game 2. The 21-year-old, who played several games early in the season with a bruised leg, took part in Games 3 and 4, too. And his ice time didn’t look like someone with a hip pointer:
Game 2: 32 shifts for 26:45
Game 3: 33 shifts for 24:31
Game 4: 32 shifts for 27:48
“It’s playoff hockey, you just play through those things; it didn’t restrict me too much,” Carlson said Thursday following the Caps’ elimination. “Obviously I was skating, so it’s one of those things, part of the game.”
Carlson didn’t want to make excuses, which is admirable. But his best friend on the team and defense partner Karl Alzner tells a bit of a different story.
“He’s a guy that always loves to have the puck and go with it, and there was just a lot of teams where we looked at each other when a puck gets dumped in, and I know he’s not gonna be able to go back. I was having to go back for a few extra pucks,” Alzner said. “Obviously it’s tough to play through an injury, especially one where it hinders your mobility.”
Asked how much pain he was in, Carlson shrugged off the question.
“It doesn’t really matter, really,” he said. “I was able to play and I think be effective, so not too much then.”
But McPhee heaped some deserved praise on Carlson for valor, if nothing else.
“He couldn’t hit people and was trying to avoid hits,” McPhee said, “but he played, so I give him a lot of credit for that.”