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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 3

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

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby With the Caps' new-found stingy defense, a goalie can post a sparkling goals against average despite a somewhat unsightly save percentage (as we've harped on before, it's all about shot volume, kids). That was the case for Holtby this week, who allowed four goals on 41 shots (three in the Edmonton loss and one in the Calgary win). But Holtby performed better than his overall numbers would suggest (with the exception of that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shot on Wednesday) and had an even-strength save percentage of .941.
Justin Peters Peters was phenomenal early in Sunday's loss to Vancouver, keeping his team in a scoreless tie through twenty minutes despite facing 14 shots. The wheels came off a bit in the second, and he got tagged with his first loss, but all in all he was very good in his third game of the season.
Karl Alzner Picked up his second assist of the season against the Flames and participated in the shooting gallery over the first two games, more than doubling his shot total for the season with four... but he was also on for three even-strength goals-against, tied for the most on the team (along with his defensive partner Niskanen and Troy Brouwer).
John Carlson Carlson's having an interesting season so far, one in which he's been lethal in the offensive zone... and lethal in a different way in his own. That trend continued this week, when he put up 12 shot attempts and scored his first goal of the season against the Oilers, but was also on for both the game-tying and go-ahead power-play goal in the same game, and hasn't really looked comfortable in a defensive posture yet this season. Add in his late-game penalty in Vancouver that quashed any hope of a comeback, and he's had better weeks.
John Erskine Tough start to the season for Big John, who has yet to play in a regular-season game and now is out for the foreseeable future after having surgery to repair a disk in his neck. Not that we necessarily want to see him in the lineup on a regular basis, but we certainly hope he gets well soon.
Mike Green Another great week for #52, as he picked up his third goal of the season, assisted on two more, and was on the ice for four goals scored by the Caps and just one against - the empty-netter Sunday night. His possession numbers continue to be off the charts, and his eight points are tied for second-most by a defenseman in the League. Nice to see what good coaching and a bit of health can do for his game - because it's really something special to watch.
Jack Hillen Hang in there, Jack. Probably safer for you up in the press box, anyway.
Matt Niskanen A bit of an up-and-down week for Niskanen, as he earned his third assist of the season in the win over Calgary but was given the runaround in the Vancouver game - no defenseman had a worse Corsi plus-minus Sunday night, with Niskanen on the ice for 22 shots towards his net and just 11 towards Ryan Miller. He was also credited with a team-high six giveaways this week (including four in the Oilers game alone) and was on for a team-high five goals-against (even-strength and power-play). Niskanen usually does more good than bad, but that wasn't necessarily the case this week.
Dmitry Orlov No recent updates on his status, so it sounds like he's still expected back at some point in November.
Brooks Orpik Orpik was an absolute beast against the Flames on Saturday, picking up his third assist and checking in with ten hits in a game that seemed to need - and feed into - his particular physical brand of hockey. He did sport the blueline's worst Corsi rating for the week, but did so in tough minutes playing alongside the inconsistent Carlson. Is it time to break up the all-American D pair of Orpik and Carlson? Not yet, but you'd like to see better results.
Nate Schmidt Another solid week for Schmidt, who will likely be the odd man out if and when Orlov gets back thanks to his waiver-exempt status but who is quietly making that a tougher call each game. Like Green, he wasn't on the ice for a single even-strength goal-against, and actually finished the week with a higher Corsi and Fenwick rating than his D partner. Still looking for that first point of the season...but that'll come.
Nicklas Backstrom One game after his 500th NHL appearance, Backstrom picked up career point #500 with an assist on the Caps' first goal in Edmonton. He then followed that up with the insurance marker against the Flames on Saturday, and was part of a relatively strong performance by the top line on Sunday in an otherwise awful team showing. Usually that would earn him an "as expected" rating for the week, because he's just that good... but that milestone is pretty spectacular. Congrats, Nick!
Jay Beagle Always nice to see a guy skate in front of his hometown crowd for the first time as an NHLer, and Beagle's homecoming to Calgary was a pretty good one for the team as they rolled to a 3-1 win. No points on the week for Jay, but he wasn't on for any goals-against on the week, either, so we'll certainly take it.
Chris Brown
Hershey Kiss Icon
With three healthy scratches last week, the writing was on the wall for Brown, who was demoted to Hershey earlier today. But he was on the second-place curling team in the Caps' bonding tournament, so he's got that going for him. Which is nice.
Troy Brouwer No forward was on for more goals-against this week than Brouwer, who had a very rough road trip after starting the season so strong. No points, a couple of penalties (albeit at least one of the iffy variety), a missed shot on an empty net, a goal-against by Vancouver on which he was caught horribly out of position... oof. Shake it off, Troy.
Andre Burakovsky A couple of blips against Vancouver aside, Burakovsky continues to impress - and put up points - in his second/third/whatever-line role, with another two assists this week to give him five on the season (and seven points total, tied for second among NHL rookies). His poise on the setup for Johansson's opening tally on Sunday night was just another reminder that he is playing beyond his years, and it's fun to watch.
Jason Chimera Fun fact: only Brooks Orpik has taken more minor penalties for the Caps than Chimera this season, with #25 making his fourth trip to the penalty box on Wednesday night in his hometown of Edmonton. That penalty ended up being a costly one, as the Oilers scored the eventual game-winner on the ensuing power play. Between that and his lack of production of late, it's not hard to see why Barry Trotz recently split Chimera from his "twin".
Eric Fehr It was a quiet week for Fehr, who started the trip as a center (winning a woeful 36% of his 15 faceoffs) and finished it back on the top line. That didn't seem to kickstart his - or either of his linemates' - offense in the two games over the weekend, but it certainly wasn't for lack of trying, and he looks much more natural as that top right-winger. Let's keep him there, shall we, Barry?
Marcus Johansson Five shots (and another two blocked), a goal and an assist this week for Johansson, who continues to rise to his coach's challenge and shoot more. It's paying off, and he hasn't looked this good - or this effective - in a long time. He's developed some nice chemistry with Burakovsky, which can't hurt, but the change to his game has been his own doing.
Evgeny Kuznetsov Kuznetsov continues to adjust to both the NHL game and his new role as a center, and it's a slow process - but he's looking more comfortable bit by bit, and was finally freed from the fourth line after Trotz's line shuffling prior to the weekend. The points will come, as will the ice time, and in the meantime he's creating chances for himself and others.
Brooks Laich May the magical baked goods have the same healing power on Laich as they had on Mike Green.
Michael Latta He averaged just around nine minutes of ice time this week, but managed to be on the ice for two of the Caps' seven goals (and picked up a nice assist on Ward's goal against the Flames). Latta continues to be a feisty part of a fourth line that is producing more goals than it's giving up, and that's really all we can ask.
Liam O'Brien The great story that has been O'Brien's surprising rise to the NHL got another chapter on Sunday, when the rookie picked up his first-career goal, a really nice deflection of a Mike Green pass. He also dropped the gloves against (and lost to) former Cap Matt Hendricks, a strange worlds-colliding moment as two DC fan favorites dropped the gloves.
Alex Ovechkin After starting the season red hot, Ovechkin has gone a bit quiet of late, firing just fiveshots in the three games combined this week and coming away with exactly zero points for his efforts. It was also his bobble of the puck at the blue line that led to a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins odd-man rush and goal the other way. Canadian fans may love the Caps' captain, but he's probably glad to get back home after that trip.
Aaron Volpatti Presumably still on the shelf, and presumably wouldn't have a spot in the lineup even if he weren't.
Joel Ward After being on the ice for the Oilers' opening tally Wednesday night, Trotz finally split up the previously-lethal duo of Chimera and Ward - and while the former hasn't responded (yet), Ward rose to the challenge, picking up two of the Caps' three goals in Saturday's win over Calgary.
Tom Wilson Recalled from Hershey earlier today and set to make his season debut. He'll make the Caps nastier... and, presumably, better.