Thursday, September 29, 2022

Washington Capitals 2022-2023 Previews -- Defensemen: Martn Fehervary

Martin Fehervary

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Martin Fehervary had two seasons for the price of one in 2021-2022.  Over his first 46 games he was 3-6-9, plus-18, averaging 19:26 in ice time per game, one of his three goals being the only shorthanded goal scored by a Caps defenseman in the regular season (the game’s first goal in a 6-1 win over Pittsburgh on November 14th).  And then, in his last 33 games, he was 5-3-8, minus-3, while averaging 19:58 in ice time per game.  It was over those last 33 games that he seemed to be wearing down, especially in the defensive end of the ice.  He was on ice for 33 even strength goals against (1.0 per game with a minus-4 on-ice goal differential), while he was on ice for only 27 goals even strength goals against in his first 46 games (0.59 per game, and a plus-16 on-ice goal differential).  His on-ice shot attempts-for percentage at 5-on-5 of 51.4 percent in his first 46 games dropped to 45.8 percent in his last 33 games.

Odd Fehervary Fact… Not only was Fehervary the only Capitals defenseman to record a shorthanded goal in 2021-2022, he was the only rookie defenseman in the league to do so.

Fearless’ Take… Even with his late season fade, Fehervary shined among the league’s rookie defensemen last season.  Third in games played (79), first in goals (eight), tied for 11th in assists (nine), tied for sixth in points (17), tied for second in plus-minus rating (plus-15), tied for second in game-winning goals (two), fourth in shots on goal (96), eighth in ice time per game (19:39), third in on-ice goal differential at even strength (plus-12), first in credited hits (251), sixth in blocked shots (117), tied for tenth in takeaways (14), tied for first in first goals in games (two), and sixth in shorthanded ice time per game (1:47)

Cheerless’ Take… Well, cuz, over those last 33 games he did lead all rookie defensemen in goals (five), but he was tied for 21st in assists (three), tied for ninth in points (nine), tied for 38th in plus-minus rating (minus-3), tied for first in game-winning goals (two), tied for sixth in shots on goal (42), seventh in ice time per game (19:58), tied for 25th in on-ice goal differential at even strength (minus-4), first in credited hits (123), sixth in blocked shots (52), tied for 19th in takeaways (six), tied for second in first goals in games (one), and ninth in shorthanded ice time per game (1:48).  At best, his finish was uneven, and the numbers one might associate with his defensive game dropped.

Potential Milestones to Reach in 2022-2023

  • 100 NHL games (he has 85)
  • 2,000 minutes played (1,648)
  • 300 credited hits (265)
  • 200 blocked shots (119)
  • 200 shots on goal (103)

The Big Question… Can Martin Fehervary thrive through the grind of an 82-game season and beyond?

In his history of league play, in Europe and in North America, Martin Fehervary has never appeared in as many as 60 regular season games.  His high was 56 games with the Hershey Bears in 2019-2020.  “Hitting a wall” might be too strong a term for how he finished the 2021-2022 season with the Caps, but he did seem to find himself skittering down an incline over his last 33 games.  There also was his going without a point in six games in the opening round playoff loss in six games to the Florida Panthers, a series in which he finished a minus-7 and was on ice for 11 even strength Panther goals, tied with his defense partner, John Carlson, for most among Capitals skaters.

It seems likely that the top four will remain for this season as they did last season with Dmitry Orlov and Nick Jensen on the second pair, and Fehervary and Carlson on the top pair. The Caps just cannot afford to have their top pair become a liability in the defensive end in the last two months of the season.  The fight for a playoff spot will likely involve more teams competing than there are available spots, and with injuries elsewhere on the roster to start the season, the Caps could find themselves fighting for a wild card spot in the postseason with several teams.  Keep in mind that the Caps were 26-14-9 over Fehervary’s first 46 games (he missed three games) and allowed 2.76 goals per game over that stretch (11th in the league in scoring defense.  Over his last 33 games, the Caps were 18-12-3 and allowed 3.24 goals per game (17th in scoring defense).  Fehervary’s ability to perform consistently over the long haul is going to be important to keeping the scoring defense numbers manageable (and yes, having more reliable goaltending will help, too). 

In the end…

Martin Fehervary had a very good rookie season overall, but the last third of his season was evidence that there was room for improvement and growth.  His history as an amateur and in minor league pro hockey suggest he might become a modest contributor in the offensive end of the ice, but this is not likely to be where he will earn his keep.  He showed occasional flashes of offense last season, but the lasting impression was that when he was on, he could be a sturdy defender with a physical dimension to his game.  The Caps will need him to be that, to take the heat off their goaltenders and to give John Carlson a little more freedom to do what he does best in the other end of the ice.  To the degree Fehervary and Carlson can complement their respective skill sets will go a long way to making this season the best of times for the Caps.

Projection: 80 games, 7-13-20, plus-16.