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Capitals Ups and Downs: Week 5

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

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby Faced 30 Philadelphia shots Friday night and turned aside all 30 en route to his first shutout of the season... which was hardly the biggest story of that game or of Holtby's night. It's not many goalies who can pick up a shutout and survive being jumped by an idiot in the same game.
Michal Neuvirth Got the nod in net for two of the three games this week and stopped 70 of the 74 shots he faced for a glowing .946 save percentage. Last week we noted that he needed to start taking advantage of his chances or he wouldn't get many more - this week he's starting to do just that, and with the exception of a leaky first goal against the Canucks (and a questionable rebound on the second) looked very strong overall. Goalie controversy!!1!
Karl Alzner Alzner had a bit of an up-and-down week at both ends of the ice. A rough go in Vancouver (in goals-against and possession) was followed by a strong showing against the Flyers (albeit one with two minor penalties before he picked up his first point since the second game of the season with an assist on Carlson's goal Saturday night.
John Carlson Amazingly was on for just one of the seven the goals the Caps scored against the Flyers, but was also on for just one even-strength goal-against - and picked up a goal of his own against Florida. Not only was it the first goal he's scored this season, but it was also his 100th career NHL point. Congrats!
John Erskine Placed on long-term injured reserve on October 30, when it was revealed by Adam Oates that the defenseman hasn't been 100% since the start of the season. And yet his spot as the fourth defenseman was never in doubt and he was given 17 minutes of ice time a night... good plan.
Mike Green Wasn't great against the Canucks (although honestly, who was?) but bounced back with better games on Friday and Saturday. He's still looking for that first goal of the season but with assists in all three games this week, two of which were at even strength, he now has points in four straight games and five of his last seven.
Jack Hillen Testing...
Steve Oleksy Was quietly solid against Vancouver and his usual feisty self against the Flyers... but was on for the first Panthers goal Saturday night and then took an uncharacteristically undisciplined penalty late in the one-goal game that led to Florida's tying goal and turned what should have been a regulation win into a shootout one.
Nate Schmidt Two nights after picking up his first career NHL point in Calgary, he got his second in Vancouver... and then made a tremendous play to keep the puck in at the blue line and help set up Backstrom's opening tally on Friday for his third. He's not just riding a three-game scoring streak; he's also been one of the more consistent players on the Caps' blue line of late. Not bad for a free-agent pickup in his first pro season.
Alexander Urbom Played in all three games this week and was fairly quiet in each (with the exception of some fisticuffs against the Flyers).
Nicklas Backstrom Like the rest of the top trio, Backstrom was held off the scoresheet against the Canucks. But after Ovechkin was sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Swedish center seemed to take on the challenge of filling in for the team's captain and leading goal-scorer. In the two games since Ovechkin has been out, Backstrom has three goals (on four shots, no less) along with an assist and has now actually passed Ovechkin in points with 16.
Jay Beagle Hasn't played in a game since October 16. Has he officially unofficially been replaced by Michael Latta?
Troy Brouwer Was the only member of the second line to register even a single point this week with a goal in Friday's offensive blowout... although granted, it was a power-play goal. His possession numbers weren't great either... although they did get better as the week went on. So, small victories?
Jason Chimera Saw his four-game goal streak snapped on Saturday night... but the fact that he had a streak in the first place shows how much better he's been this season over last, and how great the "third" line has been of late. All told he racked up six points (two goals, four assists) in the week's first two games, the biggest two-game point total of his career.
Martin Erat After making the jump from fourth-line purgatory to the second line, Erat got the chance to make another leap to the top trio after Ovechkin's injury took him out of the lineup and acclimated quite well, with two assists in his first game alongside Backstrom and Fehr. He was held off the scoresheet on Saturday night but looked pretty good with Backstrom in particular. Hmm...
Eric Fehr Another Cap who benefitted from Ovechkin's injury, Fehr filled in for the captain on the top line's right wing and looked more effective than he has in a long time with three assists in two games. Of course, it's clear that Fehr is no Ovechkin on the power play... but those are pretty big shoes to fill.
Mikhail Grabovski Has been blazing hot ever since being placed on a line with Ward and Chimera, with points in five straight games before going pointless in Saturday's shootout win (although he did have a pretty slick goal in that shootout). His three assists on Friday gave him his first multipoint game since the season opener against Chicago and bring him up to 13 points on the season.
Marcus Johansson Just five forwards failed to register a single point in Friday's blowout win, and Johansson was one of them, making it four straight games in which he hasn't had a point. Oddly enough, not being on the same line as Ovechkin and Backstrom has caused his point-production to take a slight dip... although there's a possibility that it's not so much the lack of Ovechkin and Backstrom as it is the addition of Laich and Brouwer that's impacting his numbers.
Brooks Laich His shootout-winning goal on Saturday aside, Laich hasn't done a whole lot of late and has just two points (both goals) this season - with nothing since the win over Columbus over two weeks ago. At what point does "he's just rusty" no longer suffice as a reason?
Michael Latta Since being called up earlier this week, Latta succeeded in getting under the skin of the Flyers and followed it up with his first career point on Saturday against the Panthers. The Caps haven't had a bona fide pest in a while, but Latta's been great in that role and is making the team's fourth line extra feisty to play against.
Alex Ovechkin Failed to register a point for the second straight game against Vancouver, the first time all season (and actually the first time since early March) that he's gone more than a game in between points. To make matters worse, his tumble into Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo which led to a failed penalty shot seems to have been the source of his shoulder injury... but he'll be back soon, so we'd expect that little "slump" to come to an end very shortly.
Aaron Volpatti Racked up an impressive 19 penalty minutes this week, including a fight that had some tough consequences for Steve Downie... but that's about it.
Joel Ward Along with his fellow linemates, Ward has been on a tear lately, with points in two of his last three games and seven of his last ten. That alone would be good enough - throw in his first career hat trick in a wild one in Philadelphia Friday night, and that's one good week for the big winger.
Tom Wilson Another few days, another handful of penalty minutes... that first point is just around the corner, we can feel it!

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