Capital Ups and Downs: Week 13

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with Dennis Wideman #6 of the Washington Capitals and Nicklas Backstrom #19 of the Washington Capitals after scoring a goal against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period at Verizon Center on December 30, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Our weekly look at individual Washington Capitals' ups and downs1:

Goalies Trend Notes
Michal Neuvirth http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png It didn't take long to see that Dale Hunter is an ardent believer in "win and you're in" for his goaltenders. Neuvirth didn't... and hasn't been since. Of course, that's not entirely his fault...
Tomas Vokoun http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Three starts (including a pair on back-to-back nights), three wins, and a sparkling 1.33 goals against average and .957 save percentage to go along with that trio of much-needed victories. Throw in his relief appearance last Monday and Vokoun has stopped 106 of the last 111 shots he's faced (.954). Stout. Oh, and he added a power-play assist against the Sabres, which is like a pitcher hitting a homerun.
Defensemen
Karl Alzner http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png On the ice for three of the four goals the Caps allowed for the week (and eight of the last 11 overall), but also on for five Caps goals, two of which he assisted on, giving the Caps' plus/minus leader four helpers in his last seven games, a new single-season career-high in assists and as many points as he had in that career year one season ago.
John Carlson On ice for all four goals-against and has gone ten games without a goal of his own... but there's no real need for concern.
John Erskine http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Pointless in December (and in his last 16 games overall), Erskine ended the month as a healthy scratch in C'bus after a pair of low-minute/low-impact efforts earlier in the week.
Mike Green http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Targeting a return to the lineup at some point this week, and when he plays it will be just his second game since October 22, the last game in the team's season-opening seven-game win streak. It's hard to overstate Mike Green's importance to the Caps' success.
Roman Hamrlik http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Jumping into the play and picking up points (a helper in each of the last two games) and pluses (plus-four in those last two). But if you want a stat that's really going to blow your mind, here it is - in 11 games since the coaching change, Hamrlik has been on the ice for just two goals-against (after being on for 31 in 22 games under Bruce Boudreau).
Dmitry Orlov http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png The points will come, but the poise is already there. Orlov did pick up an assist against the Jackets, but now has just one shot on goal - and seven misses - in his last seven games. Get 'em on net, Dima.
Tom Poti http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Is anyone else surprised that we haven't heard a quote from Poti on Green's persistent lower-body injury woes? If anyone would be able to offer some insight here, you'd think it'd be Number Three.
Jeff Schultz http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Played! Got credited with a hit and a blocked shot! But probably hasn't done enough to change anyone's mind with regards to his role on this team... though they have won four of the last five games he's played and just two of the last five for which Erskine's dressed (but correlation isn't causation and all that).
Dennis Wideman http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Was on the ice for seven of the 11 goals the Caps scored last week and was only on for a single goal-against, capping a plus-five week with the game-winning goal, an assist and four blocked shots in Columbus to ring in the New Year.
Forwards
Nicklas Backstrom http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Had the Friday night game-winner, an assist in each game, and a plus-four rating for a week spent centering a pair of highly-skilled Russians. You'd like to see more shots (one on goal for the week), a better face-off percentage (46% over the three games) and some power-play scoring (he didn't have a hand in either of the week's extra-man tallies), but the overall production was there.
Jay Beagle http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Returned to the lineup after missing 31 games with a concussion (and the associated unpleasant symptoms and whatnot), which is an achievement unto itself, but he'll have to do more than just show up to get a sweater on a regular basis going forward.
Troy Brouwer http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Scored the game-winner against the Rangers and took the Sabres' top defenseman off the ice for five minutes (and, unfortunately, a lot more than that) on Friday night. He's been shuffled around quite a bit, line-wise, but keeps delivering the same honest effort night-in, night-out.
Jason Chimera http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Firing just one shot on net in the last four games is no way to hold on to the team lead in goals, Chimmer.
Cody Eakin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/569564/hershey-kiss.png Rewarded for strong play down on the farm with a call-up, a dozen low-impact shifts against C'bus, and a quick return to Hershey. Happy New Year!
Jeff Halpern http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png One assist and a plus-three rating for the second- or third- or whatever line center doesn't sound like much, but winning 73% of defensive-zone draws (65% overall) and being on for nary a goal-against is exactly what you hope Halpern will give you.
Matt Hendricks http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png It's been 26 games since Hendricks recorded an assist and he has just one goal on the season, but four hits in each of last week's three games gives an indication that he's at least delivering in that part of his game.
Marcus Johansson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Broke a lengthy goal-scoring drought against the Rangers and added a helper against the Jackets, but has been shifted to the wing for the most part, raising some eyebrows.
Mike Knuble http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png A one-goal/one-assist (neither of which came last week) December coming on the heels of a no-goal/one-assist November, all the while playing largely fourth-line minutes with next-to-no power-play time... is this really tenable? I suppose the last two months indicate that it is.
Brooks Laich http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png No points and a minus-two for the week, Laich needs to produce a bit more offense while continuing to provide solid defensive efforts. A lot to ask? Not at that salary.
Alex Ovechkin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png 2005-2009 called; it wants its Ovi back. Ovechkin earned "Second Star of the Week" honors after he posted three two-point games in a row (including a pair of two-goal efforts to end the calendar year), marking the first time he's done that since November, 2010 and the first time he's had four goals in a two-game span since the end of the 2009-10 season. Ovechkin was on the ice for eight of the last nine goals the Caps scored last week, averaged four shots and three hits per game, and has seen a spike in his SWAGGER/60. More, please.
Mathieu Perreault http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Missed the week after damn-near impaling himself along the boards in Buffalo, but it doesn't seem as if the coaching staff is in any great hurry to pop him back into the lineup.
Alexander Semin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Two goals against the Rangers, a pair of assists against the Sabres, and another tally against the Jackets close out a month of December that matched his combined totals (five goals, five assists) for October and November for Semin. Maybe he remembered that he could sign another contract extension once January 1 rolled around...
Joel Ward What's going on with JWard? He's not killing penalties, he's certainly not scoring (no points in his last eight games, no goals in his last 25)... among the forwards, he seems to have taken the biggest turn for the worst under Hunter.

1 Though the first Caps/Sabres game last week took place, uh, last week, it was covered in last week's Ups and Downs and thus isn't included in this week's analysis... which makes this week's Ups and Downs even more enjoyable.

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