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Capitals Ups and Downs: Week 2

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

Photo by Clyde Caplan/

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby Had his best start of the season on Thursday, stopping 33 of 36 Carolina shots (including 32 of 34 at other-than 3-on-5 strength), but didn't look great on the game-winner and was unable to snag his first win of the year. It looks like the Caps might need a goalie to step up and steal them a game or two to get on track, and Holtby has certainly done that plenty over the course of his young career; the sooner he delivers his next one, the better.
Michal Neuvirth Turned to on Saturday night to stop the bleeding (against his former stablemate Semyon Varlamov, no less), Neuvirth made some nice stops, but not nearly enough of them, and the short-side shorty he allowed to Alex Tanguay at the start of the third period was an ugly back-breaker. For the Czech netminder, personally, he needs to take advantage of the opportunities he gets, or he'll stop getting them. For the team, they need one of their two goalies to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
Karl Alzner Was posterized (to the extent that hockey players can be posterized) by Matt Duchene on the Avs' eventual game-winner and could've been better on the Nathan MacKinnon goal that followed it. Other than that, how'd you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
John Carlson Deflected the first opposing goal of each of the week's games into his own net (Carolina, Colorado), and ended up on the ice for all three 'Canes goals. Carlson did pick up a secondary helper in that game, but needs to be better in all facets of the game (though when you pair a 23-year-old with John Erskine one night and Alex Urbom the next, you get what you get).
Connor Carrick Scratched against Carolina and reassigned to Hershey soon thereafter. For the time being, the organization certainly seems to feel that Plymouth (OHL) is no longer an option for Carrick, so as long as he's in Hershey, he'll presumably be an option for recall to Washington (regardless of contract situation).
John Erskine Hurt something during an attempt to defend the Hurricanes' game-winning goal while continuing his early-season trend of good possession stats and bad on-ice goal numbers (with a brutal PDO). We know which one we'd expect to change.
Mike Green How misleading can possession metrics over a tiny sample be? Try this: Green had a 58.1 Corsi-For percentage at five-on-five this past week (62 events), but that number plummeted to 43.5% in close situations (23 events). Green wasn't on the ice for a single goal in any situation for which he could be praised or blamed in the two games, which is nice enough on the back-end, but he's a two-time Norris finalist playing in the only pairing the team ices with two legitimate NHL defensemen and he quarterbacks an ostensibly powerful power play, so more is justifiably expected of him.
Jack Hillen Yeah, don't expect much in this space for the next four-to-six months.
Steve Oleksy A year after finishing among the most fortunate defenders in the game last year in terms of pucks going in the other guy's net versus those going into his, everyone should expect a return to earth for Oleksy in 2013-14... but three goals-against in one game - as happened against Colorado - is a bit much, even if they weren't his fault (that's why it's called "luck").
Nate Schmidt Became the fourth Cap to make his NHL regular-season debut already this season, and was as good as could reasonably be expected - some mistakes, but an ability to get the puck up ice that is in short supply on the Caps' blueline. At five-on-five, Schmidt's possession numbers were pretty impressive, be it overall or when the game was close (small sample caveats apply, of course). As a left-handed defenseman, opportunities abound in D.C. for the former University of Minnesota Gopher.
Alexander Urbom Speaking of lefty defenders, Urbom made his Caps debut in the third pairing against the 'Canes and was bumped up to the second pair in place of Erskine against the Avs. In two games he's fired four (booming) shots on goal, was credited with five hits and, most importantly, wasn't on the ice for a goal-against. So far, so good, but remember - this is a guy that Lou Lamoriello was willing to bet would pass through waivers (or was otherwise unwilling to contort his roster to accommodate), so keep your expectations realistic.
Nicklas Backstrom It was a down week for the Caps' top pivot, or, more accurately, an awful Saturday night (one which saw him on the ice for three goals-against). However you cut it, Backstrom managed only an even-strength secondary assist over the two games, and was under 40% in Corsi (39.4, to be precise) when those games were close. Two even-strength points every five games isn't good enough.
Jay Beagle Scratched against the 'Canes, Beagle got back into the lineup against the Avs and didn't do much in 9:22 of ice time. Is he better than Michael Latta? Does it matter?
Troy Brouwer No Cap had a worse Corsi- or Fenwick-For percentage at five-on-five (overall or in close situations) over the week's two games than Brouwer, who is still looking for his first point of 2013-14. Does that make his call-out of his team following the loss to the Avalanche any less palatable than it might otherwise be? Yeah, it might.
Jason Chimera With a bit of a gift goal against Carolina and a nice helper against Colorado, Chimera was part of what was the Caps' best and most productive trio of the week. That it was the third line is an indictment of the team, not Chimera and his linemates, who were the least of the team's concerns over the past two games.
Martin Erat In two games last week, Erat won all six faceoffs he took, and had the best Corsi-, Fenwick- and Shots-For percentage at five-on-five (overall and in close situations) of anyone on the team. When Erat was on the ice at fives, the Caps had nine of the ten shots on goal that were taken, 11 of the 12 Fenwick events, and 14 of the 16 Corsi events. Of course these numbers come over miniscule samples... but why not increase the sample size to see if there's something there? Just a thought, not a sermon.
Eric Fehr See Chimera note above, because the numbers are nearly identical - a goal, an assist, and some super possession numbers (for a guy we slagged earlier in the week). He might have had a chance to tie the Carolina game, but, well, didn't. What he did do, however, was good... for a third-line center.
Mikhail Grabovski The second line is a mess right now, and while that's not necessarily on Grabovski (his possession numbers are still a good bit better than his linemates'), he has nary a point over his last three games. Expectations are high for this guy, but he can't do it by himself.
Marcus Johansson The good? His speed. The bad? Most everything else. In five games, Johansson - playing alongside a pair of elite players - has a pair of even-strength assists and a trio of shots on goal. Sixteen Caps have more individual Fenwick events at fives than Johansson, and only four of those have played more minutes.
Brooks Laich Five games, decent minutes, no points, one even-strength Fenwick event per game. Nope.
Michael Latta Drew two penalties while killing penalties against the 'Canes - that's just good clean living. Returned to Hershey before Saturday night's game, but he'll be back and has a fourth-line future in this town.
Alex Ovechkin Ran his goal-scoring streak to four games against Carolina before having it snapped by his fellow countryman on Saturday. But with 14 shots on goal in the two games and more individual five-on-five Corsi events than anyone in the League other than Phil Kessel... Ovi's not the problem.
Aaron Volpatti This dude's still on the roster?
Joel Ward Was the only player other than Urbom not to be on the ice for an opponent's goal in two games (which, for Ward, included three-and-a-half minutes of shorthanded ice time), and picked up a helper on the Fehr goal Saturday night. Oddly enough, the "overpaid" Ward seems like a relative bargain compared to some of his teammates in the early goings.
Tom Wilson Why is this kid still here? Either he won't be for long, or they're slow-playing him into a larger role. Our bet's on the former, though at this point, who knows what's going on, especially with the fourth line?