WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 09: Dennis Wideman #6 of the Washington Capitals (L) scores at 18:41 of the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs and is joined by John Carlson #74 (C) and Alex Ovechkin #8 (R) at the Verizon Center on December 9, 2011 in Washington, DC. The Capitals defeated the Maple Leafs 4-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Our weekly look at individual Washington Capitals' ups and downs:
|Michal Neuvirth||Allowed five goals on the first twenty shots he faced in a 5-4 loss at Florida and now has the worst goals against average (3.76) and save percentage (.873) of any goalie in the League who has played 100 minutes. Perhaps what Neuvirth needs in order to right the ship is a few starts in a row and a chance to get in a rhythm, but playing like he has, that isn't likely to happen.
|Tomas Vokoun||With wins in Ottawa and against Toronto, Vokoun has wins in back-to-back starts for just the second time since October, and a .919 save percentage with nary a true softy allowed is certainly comforting. Now if he could just cool it on the whole "showing up teammates" stuff (especially given his delicate, see-through domicile).|
|Karl Alzner||Played a career-high 27:40 against the Sens, a game in which he finished with a plus-2 rating, and managed a plus-2 rating in the 5-4 loss to the Panthers as well. Alzner has now gone 20 games without a goal, but that's not his bag, baby.|
|John Carlson||It was a monster week for the sophomore who became the first Cap blueliner to post back-to-back three-point games in 18 years, before tacking on a helper against the Leafs to run his point-scoring streak to four games. Carlson was on the ice for a team-high eight (of the 13) goals-for this week, and just four against, while averaging more than 26 minutes of ice time per night. Think he's adjusting well to his new (old) coach?|
|John Erskine||Got nailed with a questionable instigator/misconduct against the Cats and saw limited ice during crunch time in the next two games (he skated a total of 30:02 for the week, just 2:22 more than Alzner skated in Ottawa). But, for now, he's clearly the coaching staff's choice for the sixth defenseman slot.|
|Mike Green||Seems to have suffered a setback in his rehab from what is reportedly a groin injury, an inference that may have been lent more credence after an interesting tweet last night. [Update: Yep, he went to see a specialist.]|
|Roman Hamrlik||Returned to the lineup against the Leafs and played 15 relatively quiet minutes, which, the way things had been going for him, is probably a good thing.|
|Dmitry Orlov||Had helpers in each of the week's first two games and appears to be ahead of both Erskine and Jeff Schultz on the depth chart, and most certainly not out of place. With ten NHL games under his belt, it'll be interesting to see if he hits a bit of a wall, or blasts on through it (as one might imagine his slapper could).|
|Tom Poti||All quiet on the Poti front.|
|Jeff Schultz||Is the writing on the wall for Sarge? Apparently he doesn't fit with what Dale Hunter and Jim Johnson want out of their rearguards right now, so he got four minutes of ice on Wednesday and healthy-scratched on Friday after being on for a pair of power-play goals-against on Monday.|
|Dennis Wideman||Like Carlson, Wideman is finding life under his former London Knights head coach rather enjoyable, punctuated by his first career four-point night against the Leafs. With all four of those points (two grapes, two apples) coming on the power play, Wideman certainly would seem to be well-positioned to be a key component in that unit's resurgence, if one is indeed afoot. Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that he was on the ice for a team-high seven (of the ten) goals-against for the week.|
|Nicklas Backstrom||Backstrom's impressive season (he's eighth in the League in scoring, second in power-play points) rolled on this week with a three-point effort Friday on the heels of a two-point outing on Wednesday. His plus-minus continues to be a bit of a concern, he was on the ice for five goals-against for the week (tied with Troy Brouwer for the most among forwards), and has been on for 12 of the last 24 goals the Caps have surrendered. But as the team becomes increasingly comfortable with its new system, hopefully those trends will reverse a bit.|
|Jay Beagle||Still no timetable on his return, but he's skating with teammates, so that's certainly encouraging.|
|Troy Brouwer||Cashed in on a beautiful feed from Alex Ovechkin in Ottawa to complete a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, but the two goals on which he collected those points were the only Caps tallies for which he was on the ice all week, a product, in part, of being dropped from the top line in favor of Alexander Semin.|
|Jason Chimera||Scored yet again, but this one was significant, as it was his 11th of the year, surpassing last season's total. Crazy.|
|Cody Eakin||Scored and was plus-two in Florida, but played just 13:31 total against the two Ontario clubs as Coach Hunter shortened his bench, leaving questions about whether what's best for the team and what's best for Eakin's development are the same thing right now.|
|Jeff Halpern||One goal, two assists, plus-three, 62% of draws won, on ice for one goal-against... yep, that's a green-arrow-worthy line for any fourth-liner.|
|Matt Hendricks||Hurt against the Kitties, but it doesn't sound as if he'll be out long. Then again, with this team, "doesn't sound as if..." doesn't necessarily mean anything.|
|Marcus Johansson||Looked a bit lost in the early days of The Hunter Era, but seems to get it now, and it can only be a matter of time before he breaks his goal-less streak, which now sits at 14 games. And if Hunter can impart any of his faceoff wisdom on the young Swede, it sure wouldn't hurt.|
|Mike Knuble||A goal in Florida, an assist against Toronto... and pretty much a fourth-liner throughout. Does. Not. Compute.|
|Brooks Laich||Don't look now, but Brooks Laich has a five-game point-scoring streak, including a goal and two assists last week. Even more impressive, he was on the ice for seven goals-for and just two against for a week which also saw him win 65% of his draws, including 10-of-12 in the offensive zone.
|Alex Ovechkin||In the first two games under his new head coach, Ovechkin had 14 hits and two shots on goal. In the last two, he's been credited with two hits and 15 shots on goal (his highest two-game total of the season) and has given both glimpses of vintage Ovi and reason for optimism going forward. Oh, and while it's certainly a great sign of effort, "buying in" and all that... maybe leave the shot-blocking to the pros.
|Mathieu Perreault||Like Eakin, Perreault pointed in Florida but was used sparingly throughout the week. Unlike Eakin, there's probably nothing for Perreault in Hershey at this point (if he'd even make it through waivers to get there).|
|Alexander Semin||Missed two games that he "was healthy enough to play" and returned with a pair of two PIM/minus-one performances (with just one shot on goal, total) that were better than those numbers might indicate... but not by much. Semin and the way the Caps play the game now - and how they've played it for a year now, since they abandoned the "run-and-gun" style - are just terribly mismatched, it would seem.
|Joel Ward||Ward, who hasn't scored in 15 games, took three minor penalties over the last two games (including a could've-been-killer slash in Ottawa), his first penalties in more than a month. One would think that he'd be a great fit for what Hunter wants to do with his forwards, but it hasn't materialized yet.|