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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 1

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

Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby Holtby carried his strong preseason play into the regular season's first week, allowing just one goal on 53 shots in 125 minutes. That's exactly the kind of start you'd hope for, and one which should be a preview of good things to come.
Justin Peters With a pretty light schedule early on (the Caps don't play their first set of back-to-back games until October 25 and 26), it's unclear when Peters will see his first regular season action in a Caps sweater. But when he does, expect pretty good results.
Karl Alzner Single-game possession stats are of questionably utility (especially for stay-at-home defensemen), but we'll still point out that Alzner and new partner Matt Niskanen were the only Caps to have positive Corsi ratings in each of the week's two games, and his Corsi +/- is tops on the team (+12). He also skated five minutes on the perfect penalty kill and added an assist for good measure because why not?
John Carlson One of the reasons Alzner and Niskanen have posted big possession numbers so far is that Carlson and Brooks Orpik are taking the tougher assignments... and they got hammered in them on Saturday night (except where it matters most, of course, which is on the scoreboard... thanks to Holtby, right John?). But Carlson's ten minutes of perfect penalty killing and pair of helpers against the B's will certainly do,and... is that a bit of newfound snarl we detect whilst playing alongside the rugged Orpik?
John Erskine Speaking of rugged, Big John is still on the roster, but perhaps only technically - he hasn't played a game (regular or preseason) since an ugly outing in Buffalo and it's hard to see him getting another one here any time soon.
Mike Green Green returned from an upper-body ailment that had sidelined him through the latter half of the preseason and for the first game of the regular season but returned to face the Bruins and wasted little time making an impact, potting a power-play goal skating with the second unit.
Jack Hillen With Green's return, Hillen sat and Nate Schmidt played. Guess we know how that depth chart stands right now.
Matt Niskanen Through two games, no Cap has a higher relative Corsi than Niskanen. Sure, his zone starts have been favorable, and he looked a little lost on the Habs' goal, but when you're leading the team in even-strength ice time playing 19:30 per game, the minutes aren't all easy.
Dmitry Orlov There's no timetable and no rush regarding Orlov's injury, but his return will bolster the blueline and give the Caps perhaps as strong a corps of top-six defensemen as there is in the East.
Brooks Orpik As advertised, Orpik has delivered huge hits, a physical edge, strong penalty-killing (8:27 in two games)... and ugly advanced stats. Orpik may not "make everyone around him better" in the Corsi/Fenwick sense of the word, but he certainly does in other ways. Is that the best approach for the team? Ask again in April and on down the line.
Nate Schmidt Schmidt has been pretty well-sheltered in the third pairing for two games, but continues to not look out of place at the NHL level.
Nicklas Backstrom Barry Trotz has leaned on Backstrom (his Selke candidate) early and often, giving the Swede the most minutes of any forward and the most even-strength draws in each zone, and Backstrom has responded as Backstrom does - impressively. He's one of two Caps skaters with an a positive relative Corsi and an offensive zone start percentage below 50% (Ward), and picked up a pair of helpers on Saturday night. We all know who has the Harts, but a strong argument can be made that Backstrom is the team's most valuable player.
Jay Beagle When Beagle returns, he'll face a lot of competition for ice time among fourth-liners who can play in the middle. If Trotz sees him as a penalty-killer, that may give him a leg up on some of that competition.
Chris Brown Brown skated seven shifts and just 3:42 on opening night (before being scratched in Boston), but did register a shot and three hits, so there's that.
Troy Brouwer Skating alongside Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson on the second line, Brouwer set up the first goal of the season, but hasn't been able to generate much since. His possession numbers are bad (largely due to a rough night in Boston), and there's reason for concern regarding that line's possession numbers, in part due to Burakovsky's 4-for-19 performance in the faceoff circle. Brouwer may well need to start taking more of those draws at some point.
Andre Burakovsky Let's get the bad out of the way first before gushing about this kid - as mendioned above, Burakovsky has been predictably bad in the dot (including an 0-for-5 in the defensive zone). Now onto the good, like his goal against Montreal and his two assists against Boston and that he's been on the ice and had a hand in three of the Caps' five goals so far and that his relative Corsi is solidly positive (despite skating with possession anchors Brouwer and Johansson). That's a great week for someone who has done nothing but impress this summer and into the fall. Can he keep it up? We'll see.
Jason Chimera Coming off a career-high 42 points, Chimera again slots in on the third-line opposite good pal Joel Ward. Don't expect the offensive numbers to be as good, but don't be surprised if Chimera becomes a more effective all-around player.
Eric Fehr Fehr has one of the sweetest gigs in the game, skating shotgun on the Ovechkin-Backstrom line, and through two games has looked reasonably good there with nothing to show for it.
Marcus Johansson Stop me if you've heard this one: Marcus Johansson needs to shoot more (though it is worth noting that he's third on the team in shots, so...). He also needs to do a lot of things "more" if he wants to stick in the top-six.
Evgeny Kuznetsov Kuznetsov only saw 4:10 of even-strength ice time in the Montreal game, but was up to 9:25 against Boston and had a secondary assist taken away on a scoring change (they'll never take away that beauty on the power-play, however). If Trotz wants to keep Kuznetsov in the middle, he might be stuck on the fourth line for a bit, barring a three-line shuffle. But there might be a second-line left-wing spot opening up before long, if the coach wants to put his young Russian back in his natural position.
Brooks Laich Centering Chimera and Ward is probably the best role for Laich on this team, but he'd also have to be in consideration for the second-line left wing spot, should Johansson falter. Laich is second on the team in face offs... which is going to be a bit problematic if he doesn't get his efficiency up (he's 8-for-25 so far), and part of the reason (along with Burakovsky and Kuznetsov) that the Caps are dead last in the League in face-off win percentage.
Michael Latta One game, one fight in defense of a teammate, one minute on the penalty kill... efforts like that endear you to a coach.
Liam O'Brien One game, one fight in defense of a teammate... efforts like that endear you to a coach.
Alex Ovechkin The hockey season isn't officially underway until Alex Ovechkin scores a power-play goal on a one-timer from the circle to the goalie's right; the hockey season officially got underway in the first period of Saturday night's Caps-Bruins game in Boston. Ovi added another later in the period (at even-strength, no less), helping to lead the Caps to their first win of the season.
Aaron Volpatti Like Beagle, Volpatti might have a hard time cracking the lineup when healthy. Unlike Beagle, Volpatti doesn't kill penalties... or do much of anything that helps to win hockey games.
Joel Ward The Big Cheese picked up where he left off after last year's career-high 24-goal campaign, notching his first of the year to put a little icing on the cake Saturday night. Granted, it's not the biggest goal he's ever scored in that building, but he'll take it. And we'll take the 8th best CorsiRel on the team, despite the least-favorable zone starts.
Tom Wilson When Wilson's ankle is ready for hockey, the Caps will have a tough decision to make as to whether he plays in D.C. or Hershey (after a rehab assignment with the Bears, presumably).