Which Capitals player has elevated their game the most?


For someone who doesn’t score a lot of goals, there might not be someone as snakebitten offensively as Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen. 

Entering Saturday’s game against the Senators, he has already scored more goals in 39 games this season (three) than he had in the previous 141 (two). And were it not for two disallowed goals, he could have five on the season, which would tie him with Dmitry Orlov for second on the team in goals by a defenseman, behind just John Carlson.

There are several players who have improved their game this season, but Jensen’s performance with Orlov (his defense partner) has given the Capitals two legitimate shutdown pairings — that value cannot be overstated. 

At five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick, Jensen has posted a 51.11% Corsi-For percentage (shot attempts) and the Capitals attempt 53.09% of shots with Jensen on the ice. The former is the second-best mark of his career and the latter is the best. He’s also attempting more shots than he has before, as his 107 attempts this season have already matched his 107 attempts from a year ago in 53 games, per Hockey-Reference

With Orlov’s stellar playmaking ability, the duo has thrived. Jensen has been the steady force of that pairing that’s helped the Capitals properly balance out their pairings and give them two units to rely on. 

This year, Jensen is averaging more than 19 minutes on the ice per game, two minutes and two seconds more than he averaged a year ago. It’s also just more than a minute-and-a-half more than he’d played in his most used season prior to this one.

Once a healthy scratch on the blue line just about two years ago, those days seem long gone — and not just because of how the landscape of the world has changed since February 2020.

Jensen’s transition hasn’t been easy, considering his partner for most of last year (Zdeno Chara) doesn’t have many (if any) of the same characteristics that Orlov does. But Jensen has thrived this year, and that’s been a welcome sign on a Capitals team that’s needed stability in the worst way since the season’s outset.

He’s got the remainder of this year and then next season before he finishes out a four-year, $10 million contract that will pay him $2.5 million per season. And right now, that deal looks like a bargain. 

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