EDMONTON, Alberta | John Carlson’s a pretty good offensive player. Many hockey fans discovered that when he scored the winning goal in overtime for the United States against Canada in the world junior tournament gold medal game in January 2010.
Yet he hasn’t been a permanent fixture on the Capitals power play. And more so even than depth of options at the point positions, Bruce Boudreau has an explanation for Carlson not being counted on in that role, centering on his and Karl Alzner’s defensive responsibilities.
“It has nothing to do with him. I don’t think it’s a secret – if they’re going to play agains the other team’s top line and the other team’s top line usually doesn’t kill the penalties, but they’re the line that comes out,” Boudreau said. “To have Alzner and Carlson ready to play against them would be beneficial.”
When Mike Green is healthy, the Caps can roll him, Alex Ovechkin, Dennis Wideman and Roman Hamrlik at the point positions and then allow Alzner and Carlson to jump on the shift after the power play is up.
Without Green Thursday night at the Edmonton Oilers, the Caps’ strategy and defensive pairings might change a bit.
“When John’s out there, depending on if he’s on the first or second unit, that might make me play with somebody else for a shift or push back the time that I get out on the ice,” Alzner said. “That’s a non issue pretty much.”
Alzner figures that following power plays, the pairing that doesn’t have any power-play guys (which would be Jeff Schultz and Sean Collins) would take the first shift afterward.
But if Oilers coach Tom Renney puts his offensively powerful kids line of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall on the ice, that might force Boudreau to counter with Alzner and Carlson.
That should be OK, in most cases, Alzner said, “as long as he’s not skating up and down the ice because they keep clearing the puck on the PP.”
A tired Carlson then could become an issue, leading to some defensive juggling by Boudreau and assistant Bob Woods. But the 21-year-old defenseman isn’t about to let his all-around game suffer because he’s getting a bigger chance on the power play.
“If I’m not going to play my best five-on-five, then I shouldn’t be on the power play,” Carlson said. “That’s why I work hard every shift and every play.”