Capital Ups and Downs: Week 12

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 23: Goalie Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils looks back as Jason Chimera #25 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with teammates after he scored his first of two goals during the third period of an NHL hockey game at Prudential Center on December 23, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. Devils won 4-3 in a shootout. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

Our weekly look at individual Washington Capitals' ups and downs:

Goalies Trend Notes
Michal Neuvirth http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Was chased after giving up three goals on six shots last night, but he's been strong otherwise, backstopping the Caps to one of their better performances against Nashville and then keeping things as close as he possibly could against the Devils to allow a comeback. In the last two weeks he's seen his save percentage creep up from .873 to .887, his GAA from a terrifying 3.76 to a slightly less terrifying 3.24. Keep climbing, Neuvy.
Tomas Vokoun http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Came in to relieve Neuvirth against the Sabres and had a pretty decent outing, turning aside all but one shot he faced through two and a half periods and stopping the bleeding when the team needed him to. He doesn't sound too thrilled about the fact that he's spent so much time on the bench of late, though. Ruh-roh.
Defensemen
Karl Alzner http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down_medium.png Coming into last night's game Alzner was on the ice for just two goals-against this week... and then proceeded to get a front row seat to three of Buffalo's four goals in the first period. Ouch. But he did pick up his ninth assist - and tenth point - of the season against Nashville, putting him just one assist and two points shy of his career-best totals in each category.
John Carlson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down_medium.png Was on for five goals-against (including the Predators' lone tally Tuesday night) and just one goal-for, and somehow still managed to finish the week a plus-one and added an assist while leading the Caps in ice time against his former hometown team.
John Erskine http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Took a seat in the pressbox against Nashville and then made a triumphant return to the lineup in Newark that saw him take not one but two penalties (and recapture the team lead in PIMs from Semin). Managed to not be on the ice for a goal-against in his limited ice time, though, so that's something.
Mike Green http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Skated last Monday for the first time since early December and continued to skate the rest of the week, including taking in some practice time with the team... could his return be far off?
Roman Hamrlik http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Finally picked up his first assist as a Cap (a season after putting up 29 shiny red apples with Montreal) and finished the week a plus-two, marking the first week since early October in which he's had a positive plus-minus rating. He was having such a good week... right up until he shot the puck off the rink in the opening ten seconds against the Sabres, finding himself in the penalty box for the first of four Buffalo goals. So close, Hamr.
Dmitry Orlov http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Saw his ice time dip a little (down from an average of 19 minutes to around 16.5), registered just one shot on goal in three games and was on for the same number of goals-for (2) as goals-against, but continues to exhibit poise well beyond his years with the puck.
Tom Poti http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png ...who?
Jeff Schultz http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Finally returned to the lineup against the Predators, but was essentially benched after a defensive miscue and back in the doghouse pressbox against New Jersey and Buffalo. We're all for teaching and using ice time as a carrot, but knowing just one mistake sends you out of the lineup can't be good for a guy's confidence... can it?
Dennis Wideman http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Picked up three assists - including two on the power play, believe it or not - in a week that saw him on the ice for five goals-for and just three against, and continues to be one of Coach Hunter's workhorses on the blue line with around 25 minutes (and sometimes more) a night.
Forwards
Nicklas Backstrom http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Had an assist in Buffalo and stepped it up in a big way against Nashville, combining with Ovechkin and Semin to put on a show for the hometown fans and picking up career goal #99 in the process. Balanced that out with a fairly invisible performance vs. New Jersey, though... except when he was too visible, taking an undisciplined, power play-negating penalty.
Jay Beagle http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Is now practicing regularly with the team and just needs to get back in game shape. Great news.
Troy Brouwer http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Scored his first goal in about two weeks, a cherry-on-the-icing-on-the-cake power play goal against Nashville, and was on for four of the Caps' nine goals this week (without being dinged for one against until last night's opening tally).
Jason Chimera http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Continues his hilarious reign as Brodeur-killer, picking up his fifth and sixth goals in the last seven games against the Devils' netminder. Aside from getting into Marty's head, those two goals helped the Caps force overtime and earn a much-needed point in the standings - and put him back on top in the team's goal-scoring race. And this bizarre season continues...
Jeff Halpern http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Thanks to some line-juggling that put him on the third line (and a steady stream of penaly-killing work), Halpern turned in a season-high 18:05 of ice time against the Preds... but was back down in the 12-minute range against New Jersey and below 11 minutes in Buffalo. His schizophrenic week extended into the faceoff circle, as well, as Halpern was a dominant 14-for-19 on Tuesday before going an uncharacteristic 2-for-8 Friday night and 1-for-5 on Monday.
Matt Hendricks http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Earned almost as much ice time against Buffalo as he had against Nashville and New Jersey combined, and finally picked up his first goal of the season last night (and first point in over two months) by *gasp* going to the net.
Marcus Johansson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Was shifted to the wing alongside Backstrom and Semin, a move which paid off almost immediately with a two-assist performance (including another of those amazing drop passes) in their first game together - his first multi-point game since picking up a goal and an assist against Tampa back in October. Which is more surprising, that or the fact that he registered a shot on goal in three straight games for the first time since early November?
Mike Knuble http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Celebrated his 1000th NHL game against the Predators with a season-low 10:07 of ice time... that is until the next game, where he skated just under 9 minutes. At this point it's gone from surprising to bewildering to just plain depressing. Free Knuble.
Brooks Laich http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Won just over 50% of his faceoffs, finished a plus-four on the week, and played a huge role in the Caps' near-comeback against New Jersey, breaking Marty's shutout in the third period and then setting up Chimera for the game-tying goal.
Alex Ovechkin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png His team has come out flat on the road - repeatedly - and if he's going to be a "lead by example" captain he needs to set the tone and make that unacceptable. Still, he had an Ovechkin-esque goal against Nashville, a bomb of a power play tally in Buffalo and an assist against the Devils in a week that saw him fire 29 shots on or toward the net, all while looking more and more like the old Ovechkin... even if he is on the "second" line.
Mathieu Perreault http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Went two games and thirty-nine minutes without making much of an impact at all, for better or for worse - no goals, no assists, no penalty minutes, even plus-minus rating, etc. He then proceeded to cram all the excitement for the week into about twenty minutes in Buffalo in which he picked up an assist on a late-period goal, impaled himself on his stick and took a charging penalty. Get well soon, Mathieu.
Alexander Semin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Despite his poor decision-making that likely resulted in Nashville's only goal, Semin was part of the shining star trio against the Predators, scoring a laser of a top shelf goal to give the Caps back their two-goal lead and reclaim any momentum that may have shifted. He also was one of the better players for the Caps during their third period comeback in Newark and assisted on two of the three goals. Heck, even his penalty was rather badass. Would like to see more than one shot out of him in a game in which his team trailed by four, though...
Joel Ward Has just one assist in his last seven games, took a penalty against his old team (and another one in front of Momma Ward last night, tsk tsk) and skated a season-low 9:58 against the Sabres. It's not that he's playing badly per se - and he wasn't on for any goals-against, which is good - but he's not having much of an impact right now, either.

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