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Capitals Ups and Downs: Week 4

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

Derek Leung

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby Kept his team in a ridiculous back-and-forth game against Winnipeg, came within two minutes of a shutout in Edmonton before ceding three goals on 14 shots and getting the hook against Calgary (and not because he'd played badly). Over his last six games he's turned aside 183 of 196 shots faced for a save percentage of .933. The Caps are facing plenty of problems in their play right now... but Holtby ain't one of them.
Michal Neuvirth Came in to relieve Holtby and stop the bleeding against Calgary on Saturday, the second time he's had to do that this season - but the outcome wasn't quite as good, and a bad goal in the third period at the Saddledome pretty much sapped any chance the Caps might have had for a comeback. Ironically he was supposed to start the game Saturday night anyway until Holtby's hot streak changed the plan, but if he's not able to take advantage of the chances he's given he's just not going to get many more.
Karl Alzner Had an assist taken away from him in Thursday's win over Edmonton (and still just has one point on the season to date) but continues to jump into the offensive-zone play much more than usual and is demolishing his previous shots-per-game totals. Eventually that's going to start to pay off, and the fact that he's not seeing his defense suffer is obviously a plus.
John Carlson Oddly enough being back with Alzner has helped Carlson's work in the defensive end (although both are still struggling in FC%), and he picked up an assist in Thursday's win... which was his first assist in almost three weeks, dating back to the October 10th loss to Carolina. The team has been producing offensively of late, and doing so at even strength, no less, but they could definitely use more from Carlson in the way of points and so far they're not getting it.
John Erskine After missing almost two weeks with a lower-body injury, Erskine made his return to the lineup Tuesday night and did so with gusto, picking up an assist on the game's opening tally and then amazingly putting on his big boy defense pants and playing a 3-on-1 to perfection. Of course, he also took a couple of penalties that night (and another on Thursday) - but he wasn't burned for that many goals-against on the week and certainly wasn't the worst defenseman on the ice. For that particular honor...
Mike Green ...we go to this guy, who has not looked good all season (after a pretty strong start in preseason) but really had a rough week this past week. Tuesday's game against the Jets was easily one of his worst games in recent memory and resulted in him being benched for the final half of the third period and overtime, and while Thursday's win was better for Green (and the team overall), Saturday was another debacle. He was on for half of the ten goals given up by the Caps this week - and not as an innocent bystander, either. But hey, he did get his first even-strength point of the season Saturday night, so... hooray?
Jack Hillen [This space for rent]
Steve Oleksy Has continued to be quietly solid, if not particularly flashy (with the occasional exception) on the back end for the Caps, and has had his CF% (both at evens and even-strength close) on the right side of 50% over the course of the season. And while he won't show up on the scoresheet, his ability to get the puck through traffic and on net helped to set up Volpatti's goal Saturday night - an underrated skill but one at which he excels.
Nate Schmidt Doesn't stand out a whole lot on the Caps' blue line (which these days isn't such a bad thing), although he did have a rough go of it Saturday night... not that anyone out there didn't, of course. And of course, many congrats to the rookie for picking up his first career NHL point with an assist against the Flames.
Alexander Urbom Three straight games, three straight healthy scratches... and we had such high hopes for him.
Nicklas Backstrom Got trampled a bit in the faceoff dot in the week's first two games, especially in Edmonton where he won just two of the eleven draws he took, but made up for it with that whole scoring points thing - first with a beauty of an assist on Brouwer's power play goal Tuesday night and then with a goal and an assist in Thursday's win over the Oilers. And while the top line was held off the scoresheet on Saturday, he still got three shots on net and went 50% in the faceoff circle.
Jay Beagle Another slew of healthy scratches for Beagle, who has now appeared in fewer than half of the team's games so far this season. Insert obvious doghouse joke... here.
Troy Brouwer Picked up a power play goal off of that beautiful Backstrom setup Tuesday night... but did so after being partially responsible for a goal-against on a power play earlier that same game. So far the guy that the Caps are asking to "score lots of goals" has just three on the season, two of which were on the power play, and no assists, to say nothing of some pretty miserable possession numbers overall. That's not really what you want out of your second-line winger.
Jason Chimera One of the more consistent performers of late, Chimera continued to make the third line shine with a goal and an assist against his hometown team in Edmonton, and followed that up with a pretty nifty backhand goal against the Flames to get the Caps back in the game (albeit temporarily). He also helped create the play that got Grabovski on the board to kick off the scoring in Tuesday's free-for-all, and has developed some nice chemistry with the new center.
Martin Erat Scored the clincher in Tuesday's shootout win but was pretty quiet the rest of the week (although he did get walloped possession-wise on Saturday, as did the rest of his line). And the fact is that while Laich and Brouwer are better linemates than the fourth-liners he was skating with before, they may not be skilled enough to maximize Erat's contributions - so those numbers may not be improving any time soon.
Eric Fehr Hasn't scored (and has just one assist) since October 12th, but otherwise hasn't particularly stood out as good or bad. Perhaps that's because his ice time is so minimal of late that you miss it if you blink...
Mikhail Grabovski His goal Tuesday night was his first since opening night, and just his second even-strength point since that same night... which he then followed up with back-to-back primary assists at even strength in the two games that followed for a three-point week. We'd like to see him up on the second line at some point, obviously, but it's hard to argue with the roll that the third line has been on since he was "demoted".
Marcus Johansson When you skate alongside guys like Backstrom and Ovechkin, it's not unusual to be pegged as a passenger - but Johansson has been anything but of late, stepping up his play to help keep that top trio productive. His back-to-back two-point performances to kick off the road trip helped get the Caps two wins, and his possession numbers are exactly where you'd want the guy feeding Ovechkin to be. He even had three shots on net of his own Tuesday night (although he still needs to shoot more, following up the combined seven shots he fired against Columbus and Winnipeg with a couple of donuts against the Alberta duo).
Brooks Laich Followed up his two-goal week last week with three games in which he was pointless, a combined minus-four and on the wrong side of good as far as possession is concerned... especially on Saturday. He also won just 21 of the 50 draws he took (which could be part of that whole possession issue, since to possess the puck you usually need to start with it).
Alex Ovechkin His tenth goal of the season Thursday night made him the first player in the League to hit double digits in that category, following up a two-goal performance on Tuesday in which he practically willed his team back into the game. A bit of bad luck and some good work by Calgary to take away his time and space on Saturday kept him off the scoresheet... and yet he still managed to get five shots on net (with another ten that were either blocked or missed), bringing his League-leading total up to 72 on the season.
Aaron Volpatti Skated exactly 22:04 in the three games combined and still managed to finish the week with more goals at even-strength (one) than the entire second line. He's also officially in the books as a Capitals goal-scorer, so... kudos, sir.
Joel Ward Rounded out the third line's production with a goal and an assist of his own, and continues to help make that line a very tough one to play against. Did get burned a bit for some goals-against on the week, more than his linemates, but didn't appear to be directly responsible for any of them.
Tom Wilson Came very close to finishing Tuesday night with more minutes in the penalty box than on the ice (although it did top the ice time he got on Saturday)... which sadly is pretty much all there is to say about Tom Wilson's young NHL career so far. He's doing everything that's asked of him and proving to be a physical presence on every shift, but if they're not going to ask more of him at some point, he simply shouldn't be here.

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