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Capitals Ups and Downs: Week 3

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

Patrick Smith

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby While he should've had John Moore's wrister that proved to be the eventual game-winner against the Rangers, Holtby made plenty of stops last week that he probably had no business making en route to a 2-1-0/1.69/.952 week in which he could have easily been one of each game's Three Stars. Hey, we told you not to worry about his slow start.
Michal Neuvirth Rumor has it that the Oilers might be looking at acquiring Neuvirth to try to shore up their goaltending. Yeah, I'm not sure I get it, either. Regardless, the Caps are in Edmonton on Thursday night - might they give the Oil an up-close peek at what Neuvirth looks like on Rexall ice?
Karl Alzner It was a fairly nondescript week for Alzner in terms of stats (as so many are), but it did include being reunited with familiar partner John Carlson for the third period of the Ranger game and for the entirety of the Blue Jackets tilt. Hopefully that will help Alzner's possession numbers, which could use a boost - right now no Cap blueliner who has played half of the team's games has a worse Fenwick percentage in close situations.
John Carlson Reunited and it feels so good? Let's hope so - while Alzner is bringing up the rear among Caps' defensemen in Fenwick in close situations, Carlson holds that distinction for all five-on-five play, and his possession numbers were bad across-the-board last week (sub-40% in Corsi, Fenwick and shots in close situations and five-on-five overall). And while Carlson has been victimized by some pretty poor goaltending behind him, he's not blameless, as we saw on the Rangers' nail-in-the-coffin tally, and was on the ice for four of the five goals the Caps allowed last week. Combine that with the fact that he has just one point on the season (as assist against the 'Canes) and the Caps need more - much more - from arguably their top defender.
John Erskine Nearing a return to the lineup, it'll be interesting to see where Big John slots in now that Carlson is spoken for.
Mike Green Broke a four-game pointless stretch with a helper against the Jackets (stop me if you've heard this one before - it was a primary assist on an Alex Ovechkin one-timer on the power play), and helped the extra-man unit to a 4-for-11 week, even drawing one of the penalties on which the team scored. But Green somehow continues to provide no production at even-strength, as he's still looking for his first non-power-play point of the season... and this probably isn't the way to get it.
Jack Hillen We're open to suggestions on how to fill this space each week until Hillen returns.
Steve Oleksy With a pair of five-on-five assists on the week (both primaries on Brooks Laich goals), Oleksy now has as many even-strength points on the season (three) as the rest of the Caps' blueline combined. Read that again, we'll wait. Oleksy added a scrap with Brandon Dubinsky, a starring role in a Moment that Mattered and some all-around solid defensive work in what was a good week for the third-pairing rearguard.
Nate Schmidt Schmidt hasn't found his way onto the scoresheet yet, but it's only a matter of time for the team's current Corsi leader, who's actually leading the D-corps in shots-per-game, despite getting no power-play time. It's hard to ask for much more than what the young blueliner is giving the Caps, which included a career-high 21 minutes of ice time (paired mostly with Green) against Columbus.
Alexander Urbom When Erskine is ready to go, it will almost certainly be Urbom taking a seat. While he hasn't been terrible (a bit slow on the Ryan Callahan goal), his underlying numbers aren't good (he has the worst Corsi on the team), and if not for some strong goaltending behind him, things could look a lot worse for the big Swede.
Nicklas Backstrom A three-assist game (a three-assist period, really) against the Oilers highlighted a four-helper week. He gets a share of the blame on the Callahan goal, and we'd all like to see him shoot a bit more and get things in gear at five-on-five.
Jay Beagle In two games last week, Beagle won 10 of the 13 faceoffs he took (including all six in the defensive zone and all three in the offensive zone), chipped in three minutes of spotless penalty killing and had the best Corsi and Fenwick percentages on the team. For that effort, he got to watch Saturday night's game from the press box. Hey, someone had to.
Troy Brouwer Scored his first goal of the season (a power-play goal from his familiar spot) on Monday, made a costly mistake from a similar position on Wednesday, and had a terrific night on Saturday that included six shots on goal and his first even-strength goal of the season. Brouwer has brutal possession numbers on the season, but look for that to change now that Martin Erat is on the opposite wing (in fact, it already has started to turn around, and with plays like the one Erat made on Brouwer's goal against Columbus, it's not hard to see why).
Jason Chimera Chimera faced his two former teams this week and didn't do much with those opportunities, other than deliver a bad hit to Edmonton's Justin Schultz and provide us with a chance to link to an early headshot of his.
Martin Erat The Capitals have been a pretty poor possession team so far this season, and yet Erat has been consistently strong in that area of the game (albeit in small minutes). That (finally) earned him a bigger role and, what do you know, he responded with three assists in his first game on the second line, pulling Brouwer and Brooks Laich along with him.
Eric Fehr Fehr hasn't been great in the middle but has been the beneficiary of some truly lousy on-ice luck - he's 275th among forwards in on-ice shot percentage and second-to-last (seriously) in on-ice save percentage, which leave him with the worst - 496th out of 496 forwards - PDO in the game and, unsurprisingly, a bad plus-minus. But his possession numbers are good and he's still very much learning a new position, so don't worry about him. He'll be fine.
Mikhail Grabovski Picked up a power-play helper against Edmonton, but that's his only point since the second game of the season, and his possession numbers have been surprisingly woeful to boot. The result? A demotion to the third line and the loss of nearly all his power-play time. It's hard to see how that's going to help get Grabovski on track (we'd love to see him center that second line between Erat and, say, Brouwer), but since that spectacular debut, not much has gone right offensively for Grabo.
Marcus Johansson Made a great play to set up Alex Ovechkin's game-winner on Monday night, and a gorgeous one-touch pass to Joel Ward's power-play goal Saturday. Even more surprisingly, after firing just three shots on goal through seven games, he put four on the Columbus cage in game number eight.
Brooks Laich Scored his first two goals of the season last week and slid over from second-line left wing to where we all feared he'd be back in July - second-line center. It's hard to see that role lasting, but if he and his linemates play like they did Saturday night, it will.
Alex Ovechkin Two more goals (and it could've been more), an assist and 16 shots on goal in three games is a fine week on the job, but three even-strength points (all goals) in eight games leaves a bit to be desired (even if his on-ice shooting percentage says the points are comin'), especially when that line is the hot mess defensively that it was for a couple of games.
Aaron Volpatti Got a sweater against the Jackets, but did little with the opportunity. Back to the press box, we reckon.
Joel Ward Scored a pair of big power-play goals to book-end the week, but absolutely whiffed on a third during a five-on-three against the Rangers.
Tom Wilson Got the good news that he'll be kept around beyond the nine-game deadline to send him back to juniors without burning a year on his entry-level contract (although to be clear, he can still be sent back to Plymouth at any point), and is still searching for his first NHL point in limited minutes (the fights, on the other hand, haven't been nearly as hard to find). In fact, he's the only Cap who has played more than five games and hasn't been on the ice for a goal-for, so it's gotta start weighing on him a bit soon, if it hasn't already.

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