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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 20

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby A surprise starter against the Sharks, Holtby was unable to find the magic that saw him finish 8-0-1/1.01/.964 over his last nine NHL appearances a season ago. Instead, he was beaten five times on 35 shots, including his induction into the Caps' "Allow One From The Neutral Zone In February" club, which now stands at three members. He was reassigned to Hershey on Tuesday.
Michal Neuvirth In his last six appearances (which dates back to Christmas), Neuvirth is 1-3-1/3.10/.898... and that includes a shutout win. That goes a long way towards explaining why Holtby started Monday and why Tomas Vokoun got both games of the Sunshine State back-to-back.
Tomas Vokoun In two starts down in Florida, Vokoun stopped 43 of the 46 shots he saw, allowing one goal to his former team in Sunrise and a pair in Tampa the following night (the first of which, perhaps, he should've had). But as has often been the case this season, "awfully good" wasn't good enough as the Caps could only muster a single goal against the team with the worst goals against average in hockey and ended up splitting the two games. In his 19 appearances since Christmas, Vokoun has a 2.00 goals against average and a .935 save percentage... but has won just 58% of his decisions (11-6-2).
Karl Alzner It was a tough week for Alzner and his partner, as the duo was on the ice for seven of the eight goals the Caps allowed, including all five on Monday night against San Jose. No, they weren't all (or even mostly) their fault, but that's still an unsettling trend for the team's top shutdown option. Alzner also has just one point in 2012 and no goals since October, so when the defense isn't there, there's little to mitigate that.
John Carlson As mentioned above, Carlson was on for seven goals in three games, and, like Alzner, nary a goal-for. To put Carlson's season in some perspective, remember how awful and/or unlucky Roman Hamrlik was for the first two months or so of the season? Well, Carlson has now been on the ice for more goals-against since Dale Hunter took over behind the bench in late November (53) than Hamrlik has for the entire campaign (49). In fact, only one player in the League has been on the ice for more goals-against than Carlson and has a worse plus-minus (Fedor Tyutin). Whether it's his minutes or his role, something has to change (and maybe will with the return of Mike Green to the lineup).
John Erskine Welcome to Scratchville, population: Erskine, who has gotten a sweater just once in February and may not be back in the lineup any time too soon as every one of the rearguards gets bumped down a slot on the depth chart when Green returns to form.
Mike Green Returned to the lineup near the front end of the 4-6 weeks that was estimated at the time of his January 17 sports hernia surgery and should see his stamina, timing and role ramp up pretty at varying speeds (but hopefully none takes too long). (And yeah, that's a bit of a sympathy green arrow.)
Roman Hamrlik No Caps skater was on for more Caps tallies (four) than Hamrlik and his perhaps short-timer running-mate Dmitry Orlov last week, with the veteran blueliner scoring one (his first since October 20) and assisting on another (his first since the game prior). The only opposition lamp-lighter for which Hamrlik was on the ice followed a brutal Orlov giveaway early on at Tampa, so all-in-all another very solid week.
Dmitry Orlov Two minutes into Saturday night's battle by the bay, Orlov reminded everyone watching that he's still a rookie. Lesson learned (hopefully), and an unfortunate blemish on a week that saw him score his second NHL goal, add a helper, and go plus-three.
Tom Poti With the trade deadline fast approaching, the uncertainty around Poti's return to the lineup... just kidding.
Jeff Schultz Hey there, first goal since last March. But offense will never be Sarge's strong-suit - subtle, effective defense is. To that end, Schultz wasn't on the ice for a single goal-against last week, and has only been on for one since December 5. Granted, that's only 11 games total... but still.
Dennis Wideman Hasn't been on the ice for a goal-against in his past half-dozen games, but with Green returning, picked a bad time to run into a 1-for-14 slide on the power-play he quarterbacks (or to notch just a single even-strength point in his last ten games).
Keith Aucoin "I was recalled to Washington and all I got were these lousy frequent flyer miles (and a couple of days of NHL pay)."
Nicklas Backstrom Larry Brooks: "There probably has been no single play in the NHL that has had as much impact on the season as the Rene Bourque elbow to Nicklas Backstrom’s head on Jan. 5 that concussed the center and has cost the Caps their best player, which could cost the franchise a playoff spot and potentially millions in revenue." Yep, that's about the size of it.
Jay Beagle Hard-luck scratch on Saturday after one of his better games as an NHLer on Friday (a career-high four shots on goal and solid forechecking/cycling work on a surprisingly effective fourth line), and, with 20/20 hindsight, maybe a bad call.
Troy Brouwer It's been nine games since Brouwer last lit the lamp, and with just one assist over that span, his production is really suffering at a time when the team desperately needs some secondary scoring.
Jason Chimera Another secondary scorer who isn't scoring, Chimera has just one goal since January 11 and two since December 23. Remember when he was a lock for 20 goals? Yeah, not so much any more, as he's five shy with 24 games to go.
Jeff Halpern Halpern hasn't scored in 29 games, and was on the ice for three of the Sharks' five goals (two on the power-play), but had an outstanding game in Florida (four shots on goal, six-for-six on in-zone faceoffs) and continues to do what he does.
Matt Hendricks I'm pretty sure "hand the puck to Steven Stamkos for a 100-plus-foot breakaway" is somewhere in the foreword of How Not To Win Hockey Games In 2012.
Marcus Johansson Similar to Carlson, it'd be much easier to accept a sophomore slump or a learning curve or whatever it is that's got these kids spinning their wheels if they weren't placed, by design or circumstance, in roles that are so critical to the team's success. With Johansson, he's missing open nets, passing when he should be shooting, and looking a bit lost in his defensive zone far too often. On the plus side, he's won 53% of his 73 faceoffs over the past five games, so at least there's that.
Mike Knuble Returned from a trio of healthy scratches and the associated drama to score the game-tying goal against the Panthers... until it was waved off as Knuble was just a bit too cozy with former teammate Jose Theodore in the Kitties' crease. Undeterred, the Caps' elder statesman picked up a helper on the game-tying tally that the zebras let stand on a similar hard-working effort near the goal-mouth, making everyone wonder why he sat so long.
Brooks Laich Broke a seven-game goal-less drought by depositing a bouncing puck behind Mathieu Garon to halve the Bolts' lead on Saturday night and, perhaps more importantly, averaged around 17.5 minutes per game over the weekend after being below ten minutes per outing since his knee injury prior to the Florida trip. All systems go?
Alex Ovechkin The most reasonable explanation for "The Fall of Alex Ovechkin" is that he's simply unable to generate shots in the same volume as he was during his most dominant seasons (granted, that's more a symptom than an identification of the illness itself). So the good news is that over his last eight games, he's pumped 38 shots on goal - that's 5.42 per game, or almost the exact same rate he posted in 2007-08... when he scored 65 goals. Sure enough, the goals have returned a bit, with four over that span. But Ovechkin can't do it alone, and he wasn't able to find his way onto the scoresheet in any manner in the two games that bookended the week. But keep shooting - the goals will come.
Mathieu Perreault Helpers against the Sharks and Lightning and continued strong work in the offensive zone, but he has just a single goal in nine February games as he stands one tally short of his first double-digit-goal season. Of note, he's also won 52% of his 54 draws over the last six games.
Joel Rechlicz It's quite possible that it will take you longer to read this post than Rechlicz's total ice time on the season (5:56). But hey, no Caps got injured in the San Jose game (save for Holtby's pride), so... mission accomplished?
Alexander Semin Had the game-winning goal and a primary assist against the Panthers and followed it up with a super night full of board-battles won (!), predominantly smart decisions and a helper in Tampa to wrap a week that saw him fire 14 shots on goal in three games (more than double his season-to-date rate). Semin has 25 points (10G, 15A) in his last 26 games and is certainly doing his part right now.
Joel Ward Did a lot of good things in Florida, though he still couldn't find the back of the net with a map and a compass, as his one goal (January 7) over his last 45 games would attest. But he's playing solid defense, so he isn't hurting the team... except when they have to sign paychecks and look at their limited flexibility with regards to the salary cap.

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