Your weekly look at individual Washington Capitals' ups and downs:
|Braden Holtby||Let in six goals in five periods, and he'd probably want at least four of them back (the first two against Carolina and both of the Nashville tallies). Perhaps it can be chalked up to difficulty staying laser-focused under such a heavy workload, but overly casual play has certainly plagued Holtby a bit through his young career.|
|Philipp Grubauer||Looked sharp in mop-up duty against the 'Canes, stopping all nine shots he faced (which brings his total to a perfect 23-for-23 in 45 career minutes of NHL relief and essentially makes him the German Mariano Rivera), and followed it up with his first NHL win, a near-shutout victory at Madison Square Garden. Not too shabby at all.|
|Michal Neuvirth||Sounds like he's close to returning, which will likely be followed by sitting and then getting hurt again the next time Holtby stumbles.|
|Karl Alzner||Scored his first career goal in 148 regular season games at Verizon Center (seriously) on Saturday night, which brought his home shooting percentage all the way up to 0.8%. A decent week of work otherwise.
|John Carlson||Five-straight games without a point doesn't reflect what has been a solid stretch of hockey for Carlson, who has seen a revolving door of D partners lately.
|John Erskine||It'll be interesting to see how Erskine fits into the lineup once he's able to return... because there are three other left-handed defensemen (Alzner, Orlov and Schmidt) who are playing pretty well right now.|
|Mike Green||Finally scored his first goal of the season in garbage time against the 'Canes and followed it up with an assist against the Preds, giving Green his first back-to-back games with a point since the first two days of November. Perhaps as importantly, Green continues to lead the team in score-close Fenwick, and hasn't gotten much puck luck at all. If he keeps playing like he has, good things will happen.|
|Jack Hillen||Hillen is "trying to stay positive" as he works his way back from that brutal broken leg, so we'll stay positive, too - we're positive the injury sucks for a guy who's had more than his fair share of bad luck.|
|Steve Oleksy||Ended a seven-game scratch streak on Sunday night (we're not sure how it got to seven games) with the eventual game-winner (his second NHL goal, first of the season), an assist and big possession numbers in New York. Oleksy now actually has four points in his last four games... with a nice 17-day break in between games three and four.
|Dmitry Orlov||Played a season-high 18:03 on Sunday night, most of which came alongside Carlson and against the Rangers' top line and held his own (bad penalty notwithstanding). But the big thing here is Orlov's deployment - couple the 18:03 (the most he's played in a game under Adam Oates) with the assignments he got, and perhaps the coach's confidence in the still-young blueliner is growing.|
|Nate Schmidt||Scored his first career NHL goal (a lot of "first goals" on the blueline this week) and followed it up with another... that was eventually changed to Eric Fehr's and then back to his, apparently. Schmidt had a terrific weekend in terms of possession as well, with more than two-thirds of the five-on-five shot attempts going at the opponent's net when he was on the ice, which helped him to a pair of plus-three nights. No Cap skater was on the ice for more goals last week than Schmidt (six, all at even-strength).
|Tyson Strachan||Reassigned to Hershey before he turned into a pumpkin (he'd have had to pass through waivers to be sent down if he was around for one more game).|
|Scratched for all three games (and all four since his stinker against the Habs), Urbom could very easily hit waivers before playing another NHL game in Washington.|
|Patrick Wey||Made his NHL debut on Saturday night and, for the most part, didn't look out of place (100% Fenwick close!). Of course, given the unevenness of Caps' third pairing to date, that may be a bit of damning by faint praise.|
|Nicklas Backstrom||Still hasn't quite resumed his torrid scoring pace of a few weeks ago, but that was probably to be expected - and his two assists against the Predators Saturday night gave him his first multi-point game since the win over St. Louis about three weeks ago.|
|Jay Beagle||Snagged his first point of the season on Sunday night with a helper on Oleksy's tally, and is centering what has been a reasonably effective fourth line.|
|Troy Brouwer||Scored his first even-strength goal since October 19th (and first goal of any kind in 13 games) on Saturday night and has looked like a different player skating alongside Fehr and Grabovski at even-strength. So... Troy Brouwer Dance Party.|
|Jason Chimera||Assisted on the lone goal Tuesday night and then picked up a gritty, hard-working goal on Sunday night - because if anyone was going to break Henrik Lundqvist's ridiculous shutout streak against the Caps, it was going to be Chimera. That goal, by the way, was his first in over a month, dating back to the November 1 shellacking of Philadelphia.|
|Martin Erat||For all his talk about not fitting in with the Caps, he's looked right at home on the third line between Brooks Laich's injury be a blessing in disguise for a Caps/Erat reconciliation? Stay tuned!
and Ward (although these days, does anyone not?) and had two assists on the week... although he continues to look for that elusive first goal of the season. He's getting chances to erase that zero, so one would think it's only a matter of time - but what sweater will he be wearing when he gets it? Could |
|Eric Fehr||With goals in both games over the weekend, Fehr now has a pair of back-to-back goal-games in his last half-dozen games since returning to the lineup (Update: Apparently the second goal was taken away and given to Schmidt). If you believe in chemistry, you most certainly believe that Fehr and Grabovski have it in spades - the two have a terrific Corsi-For percentage together, and have combined for nine even-strength points in the last five games.|
|Mikhail Grabovski||Had two assists on Saturday night and a boss penalty shot goal Sunday. Seriously, can we keep him? Pleeeeeeease? Like, f'real.
|Marcus Johansson||A quiet week for the top line overall meant there weren't a whole lot of points to go around, and he hasn't looked that bad - but he was still held off the scoresheet entirely on the week (and for the last five games) and that's not really what you want to see.|
|Brooks Laich||How confident are you that Laich will play more games than he misses in 2013-14?|
|Alex Ovechkin||Overpowered whoever the poor sap in Nashville's net was on Saturday night, but managed only an assist on that Green goal, point-wise, for the rest of the week. Take note, though - his on-ice shooting percentage is low and if you remove his shots from the equation, downright abysmal. With good possession numbers, once that puck luck comes around, look out.|
|Aaron Volpatti||Volpatti has been doing pretty much what is expected... which is pretty minimal, at least statistically.
|Joel Ward||Hasn't scored a goal since November 12, but is crushing it in terms of possession (in tough minutes) with Chimera and whomever gets that center spot. Fun fact: skating together, Chimera and Ward are at 53% Corsi-For; apart, each is at about 40%.|
|Tom Wilson||Took Rich Clune behind the shed on Saturday night, but has just one shot on goal in his last nine games and has only played as much as nine minutes once in his last eight games... all of which makes the team's decision not to let him go play at the World Juniors all the more curious.