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Capitals Ups and Downs: Week 12

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

Grant Halverson

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby Holtby's December-to-not-remember continued with two losses in two starts, with the Caps' numero uno netminder (yes, he still is) allowing five goals in each. And while it's worth noting that his five-on-five save percentage for the week was a relatively respectable .911, that 1-2-1/4.92/.863 line for the month so far is just plain ugly (goodbye, Sochi, we hardly knew ye). Bottom line: it's on Holtby and the team to be better in terms of penalty killing and at even strength. (Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?)
Philipp Grubauer Saved 39 of the 41 shots he faced for the second time in three starts, but got a win out of this one in Carolina. Since being recalled, Grubauer has a .940 save percentage, a 2.05 goals against average and a 4-0-1 record... none of which is sustainable, but all of which has kept the Caps afloat during a stretch of mediocre-at-best hockey.
Michal Neuvirth Stopped just short of requesting a trade, but with Grubauer playing so well and Holtby working through his funk, Neuvirth has been the odd man out and is none too pleased. He wants "to be a No. 1 goalie in this league; if not here, maybe somewhere else," but until he gets a chance to prove that he can be that - and then actually proves it, both in terms of play and durability - that ain't happenin'.
Karl Alzner Was on the ice for eight of the dozen goals the Caps allowed on the week (three on the penalty kill) and only one goal-for (on which he made a smart pass to Alex Ovechkin for the tally), giving him a team-worst minus-7 goals-against. Granted, he got an abysmal .773 save percentage from his goalies at five-on-five over the three-game span, but he didn't exactly help himself out with a woeful 36.3 Corsi-For percentage in those situations.
John Carlson We've noted before that when Carlson is on the ice, things happen, and last week was no exception as he was on for four Caps goals (three on the power-play, including one of his own) and a team-high 10 goals-against (four on the kill). Like his partner, Alzner, Carlson had a brutal week in terms of possession (33.8 CF% in close situations), and has had a Corsi-For percentage below 40% in five of his last six games, low-lighted by 19.4% against Jersey. In short order, Carlson has gone from a possible top-pair defender for Team USA to "He's still gonna make the team, right?" (Plays like this don't help his cause.)
John Erskine Was only on the ice for two goals-against, both on the penalty kill, but had bad possession numbers (sensing a theme yet?) and committed a trio of minor penalties, so... par for the course? A 14.3% on-ice shooting percentage and 1.000 save percentage at five-on-five masked a week that could've looked a lot worse for Big John.
Mike Green More of the same (a couple of assists but lousy possession numbers and a fortunate plus-three goal differential), so we'll just drop this here: in three games last week, Caps defensemen combined for a 37.5 Fenwick-For percentage at five-on-five and a 39.5% in close situations. Green actually led the group in Corsi (40%!), and poor possession isn't all on the defensemen of course, but everything starts on the back end and the Caps' back end recently has been... well, back-endish, if you catch my drift.
Jack Hillen Finally, a Caps rearguard whose possession numbers for the week weren't wretched.
Steve Oleksy ...and then there's Oleksy. When Oleksy was on the ice at five-on-five last week, the Caps attempted 18 shots on goal and had 50 fired towards their cage (that's a 26.5% Corsi). By some sort of sorcery, the Caps actually scored on two of their shots and didn't let a single one of their opponents' in. A 1222 PDO? That's just good clean livin', Steve-O!
Dmitry Orlov Terrible possession numbers but big even-strength minutes (second only to Green) and an even week. Hurray?
Alexander Urbom Still here because... ?
Nicklas Backstrom Like just about everyone else in this goat rodeo, Backstrom struggled in shot differential for the week. Unlike everyone else, Backstrom had a four-assist game (his second in less than two weeks) and won 55% of his faceoffs (58.3% in the offensive zone). His work on the power play essentially was the Caps' offense for the night on Friday and it was enough, but Backstrom has only been on the ice for two five-on-five goals in his last five games, which is a bit concerning. (That said, Backstrom was on for 15 of the 17 goals the team had scored in the five games leading up to Saturday night's loss so it's not that concerning.)
Jay Beagle While Beagle searches for his first goal of the season, he's busy getting murdered in possession, to the tune of a 19.4% Fenwick-For last week and - you might want to be sitting down for this - a 6.9% Corsi-For over the weekend. When Beagle was on the ice at five-on-five over the last two games, the Caps were out-attempted 27-2. That's not a typo.
Troy Brouwer Brouwer had an assist in each of the week's three games and added the game-winning goal in the week's one win. He also won nine of the 14 face-offs he took and was on the ice for a team-high (tied) six goals (four on the power play), but was on for five goals-against (three on the penalty kill).
Jason Chimera Scored against the Devils but was on the ice for three Jersey tallies (two at even-strength), all of which came with the Caps holding a lead. Not exactly solid work for the closest thing this team has to a shutdown line.
Martin Erat Assisted on goals in each of the week's first two games and then had two helpers on Saturday night, marking his first three-game point streak as a Cap. See, other teams around the NHL? He's still got it!
Eric Fehr A goal in Philly and a nice assist against the Devils to go along with pretty good possession numbers (51.4% Fenwick close) for the right-handed left wing on a second line that's working.
Mikhail Grabovski And why is that second line working? For the same reason the third line was working earlier in the season: it has Mikhail Grabovski in the middle. Grabo returned to action after a bout with the flu for the weekend set and scored the Caps' second goal on Saturday. But more than that, he led the team in just about every possession metric, including a 53.6% Fenwick close. On Friday night, for example, the Caps had 14 of the 25 five-on-five shot attempts when Grabovski was on the ice, but just 10 of the 58 when he wasn't. Yes, really.
Marcus Johansson Had an assist against Philly and ran his point-streak to five games with a power-play goal against Carolina, but was held off the scoreboard against Jersey. With five goals on the season, he's now just one shy of his total from last year's 48-game run... and would probably have passed it by now if he shot the puck more. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Brooks Laich Seems poised to make his return to the lineup tonight, but in what role and for how long remains to be seen.
Alex Ovechkin Goals in four straight have helped Ovechkin to career (400 goals) and season (30 goals) milestones, and now has more even-strength goals (18) than all but seven other players have total tallies. He's doing his part.
Aaron Volpatti In three games (and limited minutes), Volpatti had Corsi and Fenwick percentages under 14%. But hey, he fought someone (after a Caps goal, no less) against Philly, so there's that.
Joel Ward Had a goal and an assist against the Devils, but, like Chimera, was on for the three Jersey goals that helped force overtime.
Casey Wellman Faced the Flyers before being returned to Hershey and didn't do much of anything, but there are probably worse fourth-line options (and maybe even some already here).
Tom Wilson Oh, Tom Wilson. Twenty-one games without a goal, one point in his last 20, one shot in his last 15, woeful possession numbers, and now a controversial hit on his personal highlight reel. This season can't be going how anyone in the organization thought it would for the young winger... but probably pretty close to how a lot of outsiders might have foreseen things shaking out. In GIF form, it's pretty much been like this.