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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 14

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

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Philipp Grubauer Was dealt a hard-luck loss in Ottawa (35 saves on 37 shots against) the night after being dealt a hard-luck loss in Buffalo ((16 of 17), then rebounded with perhaps his shakiest performance of the season against Carolina, a 4-3 overtime loss (that also could be characterized has hard-luck, given the look his captain had to end the game with a victory moments before it ended at the other end of the ice). Maybe, as his coach said, the goals-against in that game were on the team more than Grubauer, but the young netminder showed signs of fatigue (physical and/or mental), to no one's surprise. And with a 2.20/.932 line, he really should have more wins than losses... hard luck.
Braden Holtby There's no way to sugarcoat a six-saves-on-11-shots performance like Holtby turned in on Saturday night - literally a historically terrible 60 minutes between the pipes - but it's hard to expect greatness (not that that's what was required) from a 24-year-old who has been riding the pine for a couple of weeks. We're going to go ahead and give part of this big red down arrow to Adam Oates for his handling of the goaltending situation; Oates now has a number one goalie with no confidence, a number two goalie who wants out, and a number three who looks to be a bit overworked. Yes, Holtby needs to be better; so too does Oates. And where is goaltending coach Olie Kolzig in all of this? Recall that Kolzig the player once lamented of Bruce Boudreau that "Bruce is not a goaltender guy. One thing about Bruce, he's hard on goalies because he doesn't understand the position. And a lot of coaches that haven't played the position are usually that way." Similar situation here?
Michal Neuvirth Which comes first - "Free Neuvirth!" as a sign at Verizon Center or as a Craigslist ad posted by George McPhee?
Karl Alzner In just under an hour of tough-minute ice time, Alzner was on the ice for a pair of goals-for and -against (picking up an assist on one of the former, and with both of the latter tallies coming in the Carolina game), and had five-on-five Corsi- and Shots-For percentages on the right side of 50%. That's the good. The bad? That Delay of Game penalty against Minny that opened Ye Olde Floodgates. While that might not ordinarily be enough to knock him down from an up arrow, can we really give any Caps defender a greenlight for this past week? We cannot.
John Carlson Flag Got word on Wednesday that he's going to Sochi to represent his country, which is super news. Slightly less super is the fact that he had CF, FF and SF percentages above 55% in all and close situations at five-aside for the week. Slightly less super is the fact that Carlson was on the ice for five goals-against on the week (and just three goals-for), though three of those came on the power-play (two of which came in three-on-five situations), one with the Caps' goalie pulled. The top pair wasn't the problem last week.
John Erskine Had the worst five-on-five CF% of any Cap skater (granted, it was still a solid 50.8%), but saw some of his good fortune run out as he was victimized by a pair of goals-against in those situations and another pair on the penalty kill. Erskine doesn't have a point since October (his only one of the season coming on the 22nd of that month, doesn't have a fight since last March, has the worst Fenwick percentage of the team's regular defensemen and is giving up shots and goals at a higher rate four-on-five than any D on the team. These stats... they are not good, these stats.
Mike Green Oh, Mike Green. On the one hand, there were the two goals against Minnesota, which marked the fourth time he's scored two even-strength goals in a game in his career (the last Caps defenseman other than Green to pull off that feat was Sergei Gonchar on March 20, 2003). On that same hand, Green was a puck-possessoin monster for the week, with the Caps taking 65.6% of the 122 five-on-five shot attempts when he was on the ice for the week (and 66% of 97 in close situations). On the other hand, he was on the ice for five of the seven even-strength goals the Caps allowed, three of which came as he did little (if anything) to defend odd-man rushes against. Just a hunch, but Calle Johansson may have a teaching point to go over here.
Jack Hillen You might be in need of another defenseman when you're openly lamenting the absence of Jack Hillen.
Steve Oleksy Scored an ugly (but beautiful!) goal against the 'Canes, and had decent enough numbers across the board that we're convinced he isn't the problem in the third pair. Of course, he's not necessarily the solution, either.
Dmitry Orlov Similar to his partner Green, Orlov had huge possession numbers (to the tune of more than two-thirds of shot attempts going the Caps' way at fives), but whereas Green we noted Green's ability to thwart odd-man rushes against, at least a couple of those came as the result of ill-timed Orlov pinches... and with just two points on the season, it's hard to see a ton of reward from those risks to date. Orlov needs to play a bit more conservatively (but please, don't make him quit rushing the puck), and one can't help but wonder how he'd be playing at this point if he'd been recalled earlier in the season.
Alexander Urbom When you can't sniff the ice as a part of this D-corps (and Urbom hasn't played since November), maybe it's time to start thinking about alternative career possibilities. How about body-doubling for Chris Hemsworth in the next Thor flick? Just spit-ballin'...
Nicklas Backstrom Picked up two assists this week (snapping a mini two-game pointless streak) and led forwards in ice time in each of the three games, all despite not having his old pal Ovechkin on a line with him for two of them. Still, we look for more from him than two assists in three games, especially when all three games are losses with close scores.
Jay Beagle Had an assist on Oleksy's fluky goal against the 'Canes, which was just his second point of the season - picked up almost exactly a month after his first point of the season. Up-and-down week for Beagle in terms of possession and in terms of faceoffs (winning 17% of his draws on Monday, 83% on Thursday and 29% against the Wild), two areas of focus considering he's not expected to chip in too much offensively.
Troy Brouwer Finished above 50% in CF% and FF% in all three games - including well above 60% in two of the three - and added his 9th goal of the season against Carolina. Continues to rebound nicely from a slow start to the season, with points in six of his last nine games and three of his last four goals at even strength - and hasn't looked out of place on the team's refurbished "top" line over the last two, either.
Jason Chimera Assisted on the lone goal against the Sens and added an assist (or "assist") on Green's second goal Saturday night. Amazingly, that assist against Ottawa was his first helper since December 3, and the two assists his most productive three-game stretch since shortly after that. More to the point, Chimera's line was on the ice for two second-period goals against Carolina that were scored within a minute of the Caps taking a one-goal lead. That's not okay.
Martin Erat Continues to pick up assist after assist, registering his 15th of the season (eight of which have been earned in the last month) and didn't see his possession numbers take too much of a dip despite getting knocked down to the fourth line Saturday night. But the fact is he was knocked down to the fourth line (he was particularly terrible on the two goals referenced in the Chimera blurb), and he still hasn't scored a goal. With Laich healthy (for now), do the Caps finally find a way to move him or does he continue to be the most overpaid fourth-liner in the biz?
Eric Fehr Held off the scoresheet in all three games (although not for lack of trying, with nine shots on the week) and on for Ottawa's game-tying goal Monday night. A rare dip in production for the rejuvenated winger, his first three-game stretch without a point in about three weeks, though the possession numbers continue to be there.
Mikhail Grabovski Speaking of rare dips in production, Grabovski also saw himself go without a goal or assist this week, as it does look as if the new-look "top" line is meshing just a bit better than the new-look "second" line. Was also in the box for the eventual game-winner Saturday night... and had this happen to him. Rough night.
Marcus Johansson Followed up a two-assist performance against the 'Canes with his sixth goal of the season on Saturday - a game in which he also led his line in shots-on-goal. Yes, really. Can't ask for too much more than that.
Brooks Laich Returned to the lineup against Carolina, and had a good first game back (although his CF% and FF% certainly show which line he played on) before getting promoted and picking picked up his first point since before Thanksgiving with an assist against Minnesota. Also had an all-around strong game possession-wise Saturday night, leading all forwards in CF%. Gee, it's almost as if he fits in well on the third line...
Alex Ovechkin Snapped a season-high four-game goalless streak - the longest such stretch in almost a year - with his tally against Carolina, and added an assist against Minnesota on Saturday. He struggled in other ways, though, as he took a penalty in each of the three games (including one in which he was goaded into a minor by old teammate Matt Cooke) and was on for five goals-against, including the OT game-winner Thursday night (curious pass on that one, Ovi) and the game-icing, hat trick-completing goal against the Wild. No one's expecting him to be a Selke candidate, but he does need to be a bit more reliable in his own zone. Moreover, the Caps blew leads in all three games and he's the captain, so he'll take this one for the team, in part.
Aaron Volpatti Wasn't on for any goals-against this week and had good possession numbers. Of course, considering he skated exactly 6:38 (and was in the box for another two minutes) and then was a healthy scratch for the game's final two games... well, we'll take what we can get.
Joel Ward Picked up a goal and an assist on the week, and is now just five shy of his career-high, but was also on for a couple of key goals-against (see Chimera and Erat blurbs) in a week where there were plenty to go around.
Tom Wilson Still doesn't have a point since the end of November. But hey, no fighting majors and no borderline hits this week, so... progress? At this point, he is what he is and is being used the way he's used.