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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 8

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

Rob Carr

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Philipp Grubauer With Neuvirth ailing again, Grubauer was back in DC for a second go-round, enjoying the view of Thursday's lopsided win from the bench before making his first NHL start against the Islanders over the weekend. Unfortunately for him, that appearance coincided with a third-period meltdown by the team in front of him and his forty (!) saves on forty-five shots weren't enough to earn his first win before heading back to the Bears. Solid work once again, though.
Michal Neuvirth Neuvirth returned to action on Sunday against the Rangers, coming in to relieve Braden Holtby after the Caps fell behind 3-1 in the second period. Nothing like being shoved into action mid-game, particularly after being on the sidelines for over a month (and being sick for most of the last two weeks) - but if it had any effect on Neuvirth, he certainly didn't show it as he turned aside ten of the eleven shots he faced and didn't look bad doing so.
Braden Holtby He's had some great games of late, but this week was a bit of a rollercoaster for Holtby. After giving up three goals early to the Bruins (including at least one that you'd usually expect him to stop) he shut the door and allowed his team to claw back in to - and eventually win - the game. A few key saves early in the first and second periods set the stage for the Caps' lopsided win over the Panthers. But he wasn't great against New York yesterday, and the Rangers' first goal in particular was one that just can't go in. If anyone can rebound it's Holtby, and we expect him to do just that... but not the best of weeks for him.
Karl Alzner Was on for five goals-for (including two in each of the wins) but was also on for four goals-against (two in each of the losses), three of which were at even-strength. He did manage to pick up his first assist of the year against the Islanders, however, so there's that.
John Carlson Picked up his fourth goal of the season (and added an assist) in Thursday's rout of the Panthers, then threw in another assist in the Islanders game - while skating close to thirty minutes on an injury-shortened blue line. He's already about a third of the way to his assist and point-totals for each of the last two seasons and almost halfway to his career-best of nine goals... but he's got to work on the other side of his game, as he was nicked for at least a goal-against in three of the four games this week, including three of the Islanders' five.
John Erskine Dropped the gloves with big Shawn Thornton on Tuesday after the Bruins took a 2-0 lead, conceivably to kickstart his team (although that attempt to shift momentum was only effective if it was time-release, because the Bruins made it a 3-0 lead shortly after). He then proceeded to do what he's been doing best, oddly enough - he scored a goal, opening the floodgates against the Panthers with a shot almost from center ice. Unfortunately he made it just two shifts into the Islanders game before leaving with an upper body injury, and is day-to-day.
Mike Green Has been skating intermittently since reaggravating his groin injury but doesn't appear to be on any sort of schedule for return... which is less than great.
Jack Hillen ...who?
Tomas Kundratek Was burned for a combined three goals-against by the New York teams this weekend... but anyone who scores his first NHL goal - and adds an assist on the overtime game-winner - gets an up arrow from us. Congratulations, Tomas!
Steven Oleksy Speaking of congratulations, many many congrats to the newest Cap, who had himself quite a debut week. In the last seven days he got signed to a three-year deal by the Caps, made his NHL debut against the Bruins, picked up his first NHL point and scored his first NHL goal. The twenty-seven-year-old rookie finished the week with four points, eleven hits, twelve blocked shots and a plus-three rating. Yeah... that'll do.
Dmitry Orlov After sitting out with an injury since early December, Orlov made his return to action on Saturday with the Bears and picked up an assist in his second game back. With Green still out and Erskine ailing, could Orlov be on his way back to the NHL sooner than later?
Tom Poti His five-game streak without being on for a goal-against ended with Dougie Hamilton's power play marker on Tuesday, but he did balance it out by being on for a couple of goals-for... before taking a seat for the next two games. Erskine's injury got him back into the lineup on Sunday, where he finished even for the day and saw his ice time diminish as the game went on. Have to think that a healthy Orlov knocks him out of the lineup. Or a healthy Green. Dare to dream.
Jeff Schultz Sat out the Bruins game, got back into the lineup against Florida and somehow managed to be on for as many goals-against - one - as goals-for in a 7-1 win. The following game was even more eventful, as his high-sticking double minor was the opening for Tavares and friends to turn a one-goal game into a two-goal game.
Nicklas Backstrom Picked up three assists in the comeback victory over the Bruins, including a heads-up pass to Eric Fehr to set up the winner in overtime, then added an assist against Florida and a goal against the Islanders to round out a five-point week. Sunday was his only pointless game of the week, but he balanced that out by winning all fourteen of the faceoffs he took against the Rangers. As strange as it sounds, moving Eric Fehr up to his wing seems to have given him a bit of a spark.
Jay Beagle In a week where twenty-seven goals were scored - either for or against the Caps - Jay Beagle was on the ice for a grand total of one, the Bruins' power play goal on Tuesday. Obviously that translates to no points for Jay, but that's about the only negative thing to report (as usual) for the big dog, whose work ethic can't be argued with.
Troy Brouwer Whatever disease is running through the Caps' lineup also ran through Brouwer on Tuesday, keeping him out of action against the Bruins. He was back in time for the scoring party on Thursday, however, picking up two assists and adding a third for the week against the Islanders. No goals this week, though, and with both Ribeiro and Ovechkin scoring, his goal-scoring lead is now a goal-scoring tie... you gonna take that lying down, Troy? Reclaim your crown!
Jason Chimera It's almost amazing how snakebitten Chimera has been this year, as time and time again he finds himself in a position to score and just can't finish. This isn't just regression - this is falling off a cliff, and the frustration is starting to show. He did pick up an assist against the Rangers, though, so... yay?
Joey Crabb It's not that he's necessarily been a liability for the Caps so far - hard to be when you're getting under ten minutes a night (or under five, as was the case on Tuesday). He just doesn't seem to have much of a purpose right now while others serve time in the press box.
Eric Fehr If Eric Fehr has scored a prettier goal than the one that finished off the Bruins this week, I don't remember it - a diving, top-shelf shot fired while splitting two defensemen that not only topped off a three-point night but also completed the Caps' comeback. Another goal against the Panthers gave him six on the season, three times as many goals as he had in fourteen more games last year. What a difference two healthy shoulders (and some good ice time) can make - Fehr might be rounding into what the Caps thought he would be when they drafted him a decade ago.
Matt Hendricks Picked up an assist on Thursday and did some good work (relatively speaking) filling in on the top line... but with the team trailing by two he lost his spot alongside Ovechkin and Ribeiro mid-game against the Rangers. Temporary or permanent? We'll see.
Marcus Johansson After missing the last twelve games with a concussion, Johansson made his return to the lineup on Sunday and all things considered didn't look too bad, even earning a spot on the top line late in the game. The assist he got against the Rangers wasn't just his first point since February 5 - it was also his first assist of the season. Here's hoping it's the first of many...
Brooks Laich No Laich, no like.
Alex Ovechkin An assist against the Bruins and a three-point night against Florida brought him tantalizingly close to 700 for his career... but sadly that's where the good news ends. On Tuesday it was his hook that led to Marchand's penalty shot, his penalty in the first that led to the Bruins' power play goal and his late-game penalty with the score tied that led to the rest of us losing years off our life. Some questionable neutral-zone play on Sunday created a 3-on-2 that led to a Ranger goal, and for the cherry on the sundae, later in the game he took two penalties on just one play - which the Rangers proceeded to eat up, scoring on the delayed call and then the ensuing power play. Undisciplined play is a killer, and Ovechkin had an extremely (and somewhat uncharacteristically) undisciplined week.
Mathieu Perreault Scored two goals (including a highlight reel, albeit meaningless, one against the Panthers) and didn't take a single penalty. So it was totally unsurprising that he would be the healthy scratch with the return of Marcus Johansson... right?
Mike Ribeiro Kicked off the comeback against the Bruins with a goal, then added a goal and two assists in the 7-1 party Thursday night to bring his season total up to nine goals and twenty-eight points - good enough for 10th in the League. As good as that was, though, we can't give him an up arrow as long as he insists on yapping to the refs about every call. In a season of so much good for Ribeiro, that's been the one blemish and it cost the Caps in New York.
Joel Ward Just a single assist for Ward this week, but he wasn't on for a single even strength goal-against and continues to be solid at both ends of the ice. He might not be producing as much offensively as he did at the beginning of the year, but he's making it hard on the other team's defense pretty much every shift and that's nothing to sneeze at.
Aaron Volpatti Skated less than four minutes against the Bruins, was scratched for the next two games, and returned to the lineup Sunday for a whopping 6:23 of ice time against the Rangers. The Caps may be short on top-six forwards but you'd have to think they could use Perreault and Wolski over Crabb and Volpatti any day.
Wojtek Wolski Last week we wrote the following: "Keep playing this guy - the points will come". Proving that we're psychic, they did indeed come - and picked a great time to arrive, too, as Wolski got the game-tying goal against the Bruins on Tuesday, then got the eventual game-winner against the Panthers two nights later. It really was only a matter of time before he broke through... so it would've been nice if he could have tried to keep the good times rolling on Sunday instead of serving another stint in the press box. But hey, last time he sat out he came back with goals in two straight games, so...