Capital Ups and Downs: Week 23

The latest edition of our weekly look at individual Washington Capitals ups and downs.

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Jaroslav Halak http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Was brilliant in Anaheim (stopping 43 of 45 shots in the win) and followed it up with a similarly outstanding performance in L.A. two nights later (27 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss), but was unable to go Saturday night in San Jose. Hopefully he'll be good to go real soon, because at 4-2-1/2.13/.935, he's giving the Caps a good chance to win every time out.
Braden Holtby http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png If Halak isn't ready, however, the Caps should have renewed faith in Holtby, who was the surprise starter against the Sharks and stopped 34 of 36 shots and then two of three shootout attempts to carry the Caps to a long-awaited win in San Jose. In his last two starts (separated by more than two weeks), Holtby has made 74 saves on 78 shots in Boston and San Jose. Not bad.
Defensemen
Karl Alzner http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Posted possession stats in the 50% range (and a Fenwick percentage of 52.2 in close situations), which is impressive given that his top-two opponents in terms of ice time for each of the games were Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar, and Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau (to say nothing of each of their teams, generally). Moreover, Alzner did 12:33 of spotless shorthanded duty. He probably could have played Mathieu Perreault's (here) and Kopitar's (here) goals better, but it was a pretty solid week overall for the top-pair blueliner.
John Carlson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png As is usually the case, nearly identical five-on-five stats to Alzner's and a hair more time on the kill (in this case, just over 13 perfect minutes), but for Carlson add in a gorgeous assist on the power-play game-winner in Anaheim and a half-dozen blocked shots in Los Angeles.
Connor Carrick http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Got away from D.C. for the week and saw a bit of California... but not ice time while there. He'd become largely unplayable in key moments and that has apparently extended to key games (which all of 'em are these days).
John Erskine http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png It's hard to imagine a healthy Erskine getting much playing time right now... but then again, it was hard to imagine a healthy Erskine playing a top-four role on this team to start the season, so... yeah.
Mike Green http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png Rough week for Green - pointless (despite nearly nine minutes in power-play time), less-than-impressive underlying stats that were masked by super goaltending behind him, and a brutal turnover late in the first period against San Jose that let to a game-tying tally. When he's on, he's on. When he's off... look out.
Jack Hillen http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png Paired primarily with Green, Hillen was on the ice for a couple of goals-against (including Ben Lovejoy's marker in the Ducks game on which he did not distinguish himself), but it could have been worse - a .938 even-strength save percentage while he was on the ice covered up possession stats that were at 35% or worse across-the-board (low-lighted by a 26.8 shots-for percentage in more than 40 minutes when the games were "close").
Dmitry Orlov http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Rebounded from a bad stretch to post some of the best possession numbers on the team, including a 68.8 Corsi-for percentage in 39 close minutes. Granted, those stats came in third-pairing minutes... but that's where Orlov belongs right now and there's nothing wrong with that. Orlov doesn't have a point since his two-goal game against Philly, but they'll come. Or they won't. Stay tuned.
Patrick Wey http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Was by no means spectacular, but was a noticeable step-up from Carrick, begging the obvious question as to why he wasn't with the team sooner. He still has plenty to work on in acclimating to the speed of the NHL game (case-in-point), but would appear to be safely among the Caps' top six options on the blueline for now.
Forwards
Nicklas Backstrom http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Another up-and-down week for Backstrom. On the one hand, he was on for four goals-against (in a week that saw his team give up just five goals total), got nicked for a couple of minors against the Kings and fell well below 50% for the week in CF%. On the other, he picked up three assists, including on the game-winning goal against the Ducks and the game-tying goal against LA - not to mention his beauty of a shootout winner Saturday night in San Jose.
Jay Beagle http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png If putting Beagle on the "top" line with Ovechkin was Oates's way of adding a bit of defensive responsibility to the trio, it basically worked - Beagle was the only one of the three to even be on for a goal-against this week, and it was for all intents and purposes a power-play goal. Problem is, he wasn't on for a goal-for, either... and he spent the week with one of the League's best in that department. Ugly week overall, which also included a hat trick of penalties Tuesday night. But how much of that ugliness is his fault, and how much lies in him simply being in over his head?
Chris Brown http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Skated just under twenty minutes combined in his two games out in California, a pretty quiet stretch - that is, until an innocent-looking shot took a lucky bounce off a defender, over Antti Niemi and into the net for his first NHL goal. A big goal for the team, a bigger one for the kid.
Troy Brouwer http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Kept that hot hand of his red hot, picking up his 21st goal of the season against the Ducks on Tuesday night (his tenth goal in his last 14 games), but took an ill-timed delay-of-game penalty to put his team down two men (which the team thankfully killed off) and had the same struggles in his own end as Backstrom, both in terms of possession and goals-against.
Jason Chimera http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Was, relatively speaking, the quietest member of the team's most consistent trio, with just an assist on Ward's opening tally Tuesday night. Had a bit of an uncharacteristic turnover on Saturday that led to James Sheppard's go-ahead breakaway goal but otherwise looked good on the ice and in the stats.
Eric Fehr http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png If Brown's first career goal Saturday was a "lucky bounce", one might need a new term to describe whatever that was that got credited to Fehr earlier in the game. Slapshot to goalie to defenseman to other defenseman's leg to the back of the net? Totally how they drew that one up, I'm sure... but he'll take it. As will we.
Mikhail Grabovski http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Nothing like a week of having Jay Beagle as your first-/second-line center to make you really miss Grabo...
Marcus Johansson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Picked up a nice assist on Brouwer's tally Tuesday night by doing what he's become great at - going to the net. Pretty quiet week otherwise, however, as it seems like he really needs Backstrom there alongside him if he's going to generate anything with Ovechkin.
Evgeny Kuznetsov http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Had a beautiful assist on the Caps' lone goal Thursday night, added a gorgeous shootout goal in his first shootout attempt later that night, and then another gorgeous shootout goal two nights later for good measure. Good stuff there... but not so much when it comes to those possession numbers, which took a huge hit once he got slotted in beside Brouwer and Backstrom.
Brooks Laich http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Hey, perhaps we'll see him in the playoffs...
Alex Ovechkin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png His power-play goal on Tuesday night stood up as the eventual game-winner and went in the books as his 20th power-play tally of the season, just two shy of his career high in that department (set back in 2007-08). But at some point he needs to regain his scoring magic at even-strength - because he did used to have that, once upon a time. If the Caps manage to make the postseason, they'll need him to produce... and as we all know, those power-play opportunities just don't come around as often in the playoffs.
Dustin Penner http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Hard to fathom why he's relegated to fourth-line duty while less-qualified players get slotted in alongside Ovechkin, especially since in the rare moments the two have been on the ice together, they haven't looked bad... but whatever. Nice work by Penner on the game-tying goal on Saturday, one of his better games of the week.
Aaron Volpatti http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Sure, the cap space is nice, but as always we'd prefer to see his smiling face on the healthy scratch list and not the LTIR one.
Joel Ward http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Added a goal against the Ducks and another against the Kings for a career-high four-game goal-scoring streak that was snapped in San Jose. And that career-high goal total? Now up to 22... and counting. Just a beast right now. If there's a better story on the Caps than what Ward is doing this season, I haven't seen it.
Casey Wellman http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/569564/hershey-kiss.png Returned to the Caps for a quick cup of coffee, took a few shifts on Tuesday night, got a trip to California and an NHL paycheck out of the deal... and then back to Chocolatetown.
Tom Wilson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Dropped the gloves for the first time in two weeks (and just the second time since the end of January) against the Kings - further proof that he's toning down that side of his game, which is good. And it was Wilson's hard work on the forecheck that started the play for the eventual game-tying goal on Saturday night, picking up an assist that put him into double-digits in points on the season. He now has seven of his ten points on the season in his last 22 games.
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