Last season didn’t end up the way the Washington Capitals wanted, but they did get exactly what they needed out of a key defenseman: Nick Jensen.
The 30-year-old blueliner evolved last season under head coach Peter Laviolette. He posted two goals (ending a 165-game goal drought) and 14 points in 53 games, which would have put him on pace for a career-high 21 points. Jensen also boasted a career-best +/- of plus-5 and ranked third in takeaways (15) at all strengths.
It was at 5-on-5, though, that he truly showcased his ability. Jensen led all Capitals blueliners with at least 21 GP with a 54.76 HDCF% and 53.58 GF%, which were also the highest of his career. Mainly skating on the third pairing with Zdeno Chara, Jensen proved to be one of the Capitals’ key assets.
Jensen noted that his approach to last season wasn’t too different — and emphasized “playing good hockey,” but Laviolette said in March that the former Red Wing made major strides.
“He has been excellent. His defense has been excellent,” Laviolette, who stresses the importance of defensemen joining the rush, said. “Because he skates well and he has good skills, he’s able to contribute offensively. As I’ve said the same rules apply for all of the defensemen. He’s active and he’s looking to create… I know when players are feeling good, confidence usually plays into it. He’s been outstanding, both defensively and offensively.
And in a sense, confidence was a big factor — and continues to spill over as he shines in Da Beauty League this summer. He’s skating more confidently and taking more risks, and he’s showing off his stickhandling ability and not shying away from joining the rush.
Wash those hands Nick Jensen that was just FILTHY 🧼👋
— Da Beauty League (@DaBeautyLeague) August 5, 2021
With quick hands and on-the-fly decision making, Jensen’s making himself more of a threat on the forecheck. That’s vital for the Capitals going forward. In six DBL games, Jensen has four goals and 13 points, which ranks second among all d-men. He also all blueliners in assists (9).
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Heading into camp, Jensen faces competition from Trevor van Riemsdyk, another RHD who impressed in limited time last season. He has the chance to take on more responsibility, especially with Brenden Dillon gone and Washington needing their d-corps to step up. In addition, he’ll have to help mentor Martin Fehervary, who will likely join him on the third pairing when he makes his NHL jump. If Jensen can keep this play going, he will be in good shape going forward.