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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 27

April 5, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals players celebrate after their game against the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 4-2 and clinched a playoff birth. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
April 5, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals players celebrate after their game against the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 4-2 and clinched a playoff birth. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Michal Neuvirth Took the loss in Tampa on Monday night (despite having a solid night), but bounced back with a strong start against Florida... until Marco Sturm fell on his left knee early in the second period, forcing Neuvirth out of the game and the rest of the week's action. Dale Hunter says the injury isn't bad and Neuvirth was on the ice out at Kettler this morning, but take all of that with a mine of salt - the team has recalled Dany Sabourin again.
Braden Holtby Came in to relieve Neuvirth on Thursday and was very good when he needed to be, then went into Madison Square Garden and was flat-out on, stopping 35 of the 36 Rangers shots he saw. Two games, two wins, a 1.91 GAA and a .940 save percentage in two huge games... which bodes well, since it sure looks like he'll be getting the next handful of huge games for the Caps.
Tomas Vokoun Some recent comments sounded mildly encouraging, but there's no reason to think a return is close.
Karl Alzner Reunited with John Carlson for the showdown with the Panthers, and the results were good - an assist for Alzner and two games without being on the ice for a goal-against. Look for the pair to be the Caps' top duo entering the playoffs... which is exactly what we'd have expected back in October, interestingly enough.
John Carlson Scored his first goal since February 22 on Saturday night and has been playing better of late as his moderately nightmarish Sophomore regular season ends with a chance for total redemption in the playoffs.
John Erskine If he's healthy enough to play and the Caps want more grit on the blueline against a physical Boston club, he's probably the seventh defenseman at the moment.
Mike Green Like Carlson, Green can put a disappointing regular season out of people's minds in a hurry with a big playoff performance, which would be less-surprising than the fact that he has just one point - a secondary assist on an empty-net goal - in his last 25 games. More recently, however, he's been playing well with Roman Hamrlik, on-ice for five of the Caps' nine even-strength goals last week and just two goals-against (Green's and Hamrlik's plus-threes on the week were best among the team's blueliners). We keep saying the points will come... and will, until they do.
Roman Hamrlik Hamrlik had as many assists in the season's last two games as he had in the entire 2011 portion of the season - three. He and Green are a solid second-pairing and will see tons of ice time against Boston.
Dmitry Orlov Settling into a third-pair role with Dennis Wideman, had a helper against Florida and a quiet week otherwise.
Tom Poti The Worcester, MA native and former Boston University Terrier would add another mini-storyline to the upcoming series, if he was healthy.
Jeff Schultz Barring injury, it's hard to imagine Schultz seeing much ice time against the Bruins, a team against whom his skill set isn't necessarily a great match.
Dennis Wideman It seems as if Wideman's making at least one mistake that leads to a great scoring chance the other way every night out these days, often on the Caps' power play. I suppose you just play him and hope the risks are worth the reward, but lately they haven't been - he had just two points in his last dozen games.
Keith Aucoin Assisted on the week's two game-winning goals for the Caps and continues to produce in very limited minutes, but the old saying, "If you're good enough, you're big enough" may be put to the test for the Waltham, MA native against his hometown B's.
Nicklas Backstrom Well, that didn't take long. With a goal and an assist against the Rangers, Backstrom is officially "back", and not a moment too soon. The Bruins have faced the Caps four times this season... but they haven't seen Nicklas Backstrom once.
Jay Beagle Opened the scoring against Florida and has doubled his career high in goals (while holding assists constant at one) for a second-consecutive year. Next year: eight goals, one helper.
Troy Brouwer Assisted on that Beagle goal, but has now gone 16 games without a goal of his own. Whether he's scoring or not, Brouwer will need to be a physical presence against Boston.
Jason Chimera Scored against the Bolts but didn't do much else of note on the week. Like Brouwer, he'll need to be physical but under control over the next four-to-seven games.
Cody Eakin His last game came against the Bruins. Will his next one?
Jeff Halpern If he's indeed healthy, it's hard to understand why he wouldn't have gotten a game or two down the stretch (he hasn't played since March 23), as he's the kind of player the Caps might need to throw out there going forward.
Matt Hendricks No shootouts, no up arrows. Of moderate concern, Hendricks has taken a minor penalty in each of the last three games and is yet another Cap who will need to be physical-but-disciplined against the B's.
Marcus Johansson Assists in each of the last two games have MoJo on a 10-points-in-13-games run heading into the playoffs, and his four points (two goals) in four games was tied for the most on the team against Boston this season.
Mike Knuble Scratched against the Rangers and riding an 8-game goal-less stretch, it'll be interesting to see how Hunter uses Knuble against his former team.
Brooks Laich Rink Rule: when you make a guarantee that your team will make the playoffs and then score the game-winner in the game that makes good on that guarantee, you get an up arrow.
Alex Ovechkin Two goals capped off Ovechkin's lowest-point-producing season yet, but the 38 goals he pumped past NHL netminders (not one of which was into an empty net) were good for fifth in the League. Now it's time for the circuit's active leader in playoff points-per-game to kick it up a notch against his biggest challenge yet (well, literally, at least).
Mathieu Perreault The biggest casualty of Backstrom's return, in terms of ice time, has been Perreault... who has two goals and an assist over those four games in under ten minutes of ice time per night. We'd note the challenge he faces against the Bruins, given his size... but that hasn't seemed to have stopped him in the past against them.
Alexander Semin Two goals and two assists last week (on the ice for five Caps goals and two opposing tallies) have Semin entering the playoffs with three goals and ten points in his last nine games. At the moment he's skating with Backstrom, but don't be surprised if Backstrom gets bumped back up to the top line and Perreault slides back into that second-line spot at some point.
Joel Ward Time to earn that paycheck.

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