Capital Ups and Downs: Week 20

Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

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
Braden Holtby http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Allowed 11 goals in three games, but you could count the number on which he had a realistic chance on one hand. Wins aren't a great measure of how a goalie is playing (though Holtby went 2-0-1 last week), and neither is goals-against-average (3.61), but with the Caps' defense, save percentage (.898) has become unreliable as well. Holtby was as good as could be expected last week, even if his numbers don't reflect that.
Michal Neuvirth http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Might have been expected to draw in for the Philly game on Sunday, but didn't, and now tomorrow will mark a full month since his last NHL action. With a tough slate of games coming up, the Caps will likely need Neuvirth to be sharp. Will he be?
Defensemen
Karl Alzner http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png No Caps defenseman was on the ice for more goals-against last week than Alzner (five), though only one of those five came at five-on-five (three were on opponents' power-plays and the other one four-on-four). Then again, at fives, more than 64% of shot attempts went towards the Caps' net with Alzner on the ice, so the picture there isn't rosy either. And this is the team's top defensive blueliner.
John Carlson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Like Alzner, was on for five goals-against, four of which came in the Flyers game (he was on for all but the game-tying goal which, for some reason, he was watching from the bench) and none at five-on-five. Carlson picked up three assists in the week's first two games and wasn't on the ice for a single goal in the Panthers tilt (the only Caps rearguard with that distinction), which is impressive in its own right. Clearly the team's best defenseman at this point.
Connor Carrick http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png What can you say other than this kid is in over his head? Last week, however, it didn't necessarily show up on the scoreboard - no Caps skaters were on the ice for more five-on-five shots-on-goal-against than Carrick and partner Erskine, but Holtby stopped all 27 of 'em. That's what's commonly referred to as "unsustainable."
John Erskine http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Speaking of Erskine, his return to the lineup has been spotless at fives (as noted above), and the only blemish on the scoresheet is a power-play goal-against in Florida. But no Caps skater was on the ice for more five-on-five shot-attempts against last week (a whopping 49) even though five had more ice time, and more than 70% of the shots attempted at fives when Erskine on the ice were directed at Holtby.
Mike Green http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Has games like Thursday's against the Panthers where he can't get out of his own way, and games like Sunday's against the Flyers where he's a true game-changer (three assists). If people used "enigmatic" to describe North American players, the shoe would definitely fit.
Jack Hillen http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Rehabbing in Hershey and getting real close to a return, which is more important than it should be.
Dmitry Orlov http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Oof. No Caps skater had better possession numbers for the week than Orlov, who was around 54% or better across-the-board (how about a 73.1 shots-for percentage in 27 minutes of five-on-five hockey in close situations?) and playing with confidence, and his first career two-goal game had the Caps set-up for a third-straight win coming out of the Olympic break. And then... this. It wasn't the first mistake he's made and it won't be the last... but it may end up being the biggest.
Forwards
Nicklas Backstrom http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Was terrific right out of the chute after that gut-punch of an Olympic experience, scoring two goals and adding an assist in Florida (where he was on the ice for all five Caps goals), adding another helper in Boston, and then scoring a big goal against Philadelphia... wait... what? This didn't count? Anyway, Backstrom's possession numbers were good (great in close situations), so he seems all-systems-go for the stretch run... but if there's one area to keep an eye on, it might be face offs, where he won just 35% of his 52 draws on the week.
Jay Beagle http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Scored his second goal of the season on Sunday (half-way to tying his career high!), but posted some pretty ugly possession numbers (32.2% CF at five-on-five).
Troy Brouwer http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Picked up where he left off prior to the break with a pair of power-play goals (one, two) against the Kitties and added an assist against the Flyers, while posting decent enough underlying numbers. Recent Brouwer is as-good-as-it-gets Brouwer, so enjoy it.
Jason Chimera http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Has assists in back-to-back games and is now playing in all situations, averaging more than three minutes on the power play over the last two games. This is reality.
Nicolas Deschamps http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Nothing to see here, move along.
Martin Erat http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Bookended an injury scratch in Boston with a pair of helpers and relatively solid play in what may have been his last two outings in a Caps uniform given Wednesday's trade deadline. It's hard to imagine the team getting more than a pennies-on-the-dollar return for what may end up as George McPhee's signature failure, and Caps fans will be left wondering what might have been.
Eric Fehr http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Eric Fehr isn't a center... but he's done a decent job as a fill-in between Chimera and Ward, including scoring the icing-on-the-cake tally in Beantown.
Mikhail Grabovski http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png His critically important return to the lineup was short-lived and now... who knows? Needless to say, the Caps' playoff chances take a bigger hit the longer Grabo is out of the lineup.
Marcus Johansson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Moved back to the middle to fill-in for Grabovski upon his (delayed) return from the Olympic break, picked up a helper on the power-play against the B's and scored his first even-strength goal since November 7 against Flyers. Adequate replacement? The face-off and possession numbers would argue otherwise, but the Caps could do (and have done) worse.
Brooks Laich http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Did any non-Olympian have a better break than Laich? Snags a new girlfriend, heals up and comes back playing his best hockey in recent memory, including a three-point game against the Panthers and solid play on the top line, though he's probably not ideally suited for that role long-term.
Alex Ovechkin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Like Backstrom, came out of the break en fuego, with three goals (one, two, three) and two assists in the Caps' first 82:24 of game time. But while he was on the ice for six Caps goals last week, he was also on for six opposition markers (most on the team), including the soul-crushing shorty against Philly on which he probably deserved a secondary assist. As hard as it is to ask more of Ovi, the Caps will need him to be better at five-on-five (in both ends) to have a chance.
Aaron Volpatti http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Still hurt. Still not missed. But get well soon, AV.
Joel Ward http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png On the ice for six of the Caps' last seven goals, picking up points on half of them (including the game-winning goal in Boston), Ward's playing well and has now topped his career-high single-season goal and point totals. Great year for the Big Cheese.
Casey Wellman http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/569564/hershey-kiss.png Played ten not-so-good minutes on Sunday when Erat couldn't go before being returned to Hershey when he could. Like a chocolatey ghost...
Tom Wilson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png With minor penalties in each of his last three games and five-on-five possession numbers around 30% last week, perhaps Wilson isn't quite ready for a bigger role... but there's really only one way to find out.
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