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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 4

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

Clyde Caplan

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png 50 shots faced, eight goals given up (and all but one of those at even strength), and a save percentage that's now down below .900...nothing about that is pretty. The Caps are clearly still in transition, and occasionally still leave their goalies out to dry, but Holtby simply needs to be better.
Justin Peters http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png Same goes for Peters, who was absolutely awful on Sunday night after being given a 3-1 lead to work with. Yes, two of the Coyotes' goals were power-play tallies (and one more was just a second after a penalty expired), but the Caps needed Peters to step up and help them snap the slump and he couldn't. The result? A second-straight night when a Caps' goaltender stood in front of the media after a game and admitted he'd let his team down.
Defensemen
Karl Alzner http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Here's a confusing fact - Alzner's ice time has progressively gone down since the start of the season, and he didn't crack 17 minutes in any of the three games this week. Some of that can be chalked up to power-play time, but not enough. Something to keep an eye on...
John Carlson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png A goal and two assists: good. On for six goals against, including the eventual game-winner in both the Detroit and Tampa games: very, very bad (although granted, he didn't get much help from his goalies this week). As one of two guys tasked with shutting down the other teams' top lines, goals against are going to happen - but at the rate they're happening right now, perhaps it's time to give that task to someone else.
John Erskine http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Best wishes to Big John for a quick and relatively painless recovery.
Mike Green http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Green was held off the scoresheet against Detroit and Tampa, the first time this season in which he's had back-to-back games without a point - but it wasn't for lack of trying, as he fired a combined 15 shots on or towards the net and led his team in Corsi+/- in each of the three games. With an assist in Sunday's loss, he's now just four points shy of defenseman-turned-forward-turned-defenseman Brent Burns' League-leading 14, and in three fewer games played.
Jack Hillen http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Have to wonder what Hillen's role on this team will be going forward... is he even the first choice in case of injury? Hard to think that's the case.
Matt Niskanen http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Fun fact - Niskanen's shorthanded ice time per game is fourth on the team, but he logged over four minutes (aka one-sixth of his total time on the penalty kill this season) in Sunday's loss to Arizona. Less fun? In that time he was on for one power-play goal against and one goal scored right as the Caps' penalty expired. Just two of the five goals-against for which he had a front row seat this week...
Dmitry Orlov http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Get well soon, Dmitry. No, really. Get well SOON.
Brooks Orpik http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png The Caps gave up 156 shots (on net, missed or blocked) in the three games this week; Orpik was on the ice for 69 of those, more than anyone else on the team. Three weeks into the season, it's clear that he brings a physicality and a snarl to the lineup that was missing, and he's not as bad as his stats may appear (especially considering the goaltending behind him and the competition he's been facing) - still, given the results so far, perhaps it's time to start revisiting his role.
Nate Schmidt http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png The underlying numbers still look pretty good (hey, thanks, Mike Green!) but a few times this week it seemed as if Schmidt got caught out of position, and it either forced Green to cover for him or forced his goaltender to have to try and make a great save... which, unfortunately for all of us, didn't happen nearly as often as it should have.
Forwards
Nicklas Backstrom http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Backstrom had a relatively rough night against Detroit, with no points and a minus-two rating, but he followed that up with a stronger performance against the Lightning, picking up an assist, and then added three more in the first period against the 'Yotes. For those keeping track, that three-assist game was Backstrom's 27th of his career, breaking a tie with Sidney Crosby for the most since 2007-08 (h/t Adam Vingan).
Jay Beagle http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Weird night for Beagle on Sunday, as he was on for four Coyote goals in just a little over 11 minutes of ice time. That's not what you want from one of your "shutdown line" guys and penalty-killers. So here's a fun thought exercise: when Brooks Laich comes back, does Beagle head to the press box? Take your time, there's no right answer. Yet.
Troy Brouwer http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Snapped a four-game pointless streak with a goal against the Wings... and then another one against the Lightning... and then a third in the dying minutes against the Coyotes to bring the Caps to within one. He's continuing his nice chemistry with Johansson and now has seven points in the season's first eleven games - which is exactly what the Caps need him to do.
Andre Burakovsky http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Hard to tell whether the rest of the League is starting to figure out Burakovsky, or the constant line-juggling is starting to take its toll, or perhaps a bit of both - or maybe he's just in a mini-slump. Whatever the reason, not the best of weeks for the rookie, as he picked up just a single assist and saw his ice time take a dramatic dip (clocking in at just over seven minutes) after being on for Arizona's go-ahead goal.
Jason Chimera http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Chimera picked up an assist against Tampa Bay, which believe it or not (and I'm betting you believe it) was just his second point of the season. But hey, he doubled his point total for the season and had his nose mangled... so we won't add the embarrassment of a down arrow this time around.
Eric Fehr http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217737/down.png Was a healthy scratch against the Red Wings, responded by picking up his first goal of the season against Tampa... then was pointless in just over eight minutes of ice time on Sunday. Weird start to the season for Mr. Fehr.
Marcus Johansson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Continues to have a hot hand, with a goal on a great crashing-the-net play, two assists, and the best Corsi rating in two of the three games this week - he's very quietly put together a nice start to the season for himself.
Evgeny Kuznetsov http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png It's still hard to say whether the experiment to move him to center has worked out, but after being given better linemates in each of the week's three games, we're starting to see more of the talented kid we got a glimpse of at the end of last season. His goal against the Red Wings - his first of the season - was a display of the kind of moves he's been hiding on the fourth line so far. Add in two more assists, and a nice week all around for Kuznetsov.
Brooks Laich http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png In the first five games of the season, the Caps went 3-0-2 and killed off 18 of their 20 penalties; since, they've lost five of six (all in regulation) and have given up seven power-play goals in 22 times shorthanded. Not necessarily saying there's a direct correlation here, but... Laich was injured in Game 5.
Michael Latta http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Hasn't gotten a ton of ice time yet, but he's staying right around the 50% mark in possession metrics and did his feisty fourth-liner fighting thing on Sunday night, so... not bad. Not great, but not bad.
Liam O'Brien http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png O'Brien's story has been a great one to follow, but it's hard to imagine him sticking around in the NHL for much longer, especially after being a healthy scratch this week.
Alex Ovechkin http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Saw his scoring drought extend to a career-high five games before finally snapping out of it with an assist against the Lightning, a great play in which he was toppled on the rush and still managed to get a pretty good shot on net. Oh, and all he did for an encore was pick up a goal and three assists on Sunday, bringing him into a tie with Peter Bondra for the most points in franchise history with 825. He's doing his part.
Aaron Volpatti http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/538577/ow.png Seems to be inching closer to a return... whether that means a return to the active lineup or a return to a healthy scratch remains to be seen.
Joel Ward http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217757/dash.png Skated two more games on the top line but finally seemed to get bumped down the lineup - and still kept up the offense, with a goal and an assist this week (both on the power play). Perhaps reuniting the Twins will ignite his partner in crime...
Tom Wilson http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/217733/up.png Like Kuznetsov, Wilson gradually worked his way up the lineup as he returned to action this week, and by the third game he found himself on the top line. After a year of getting fourth-line minutes (and linemates), he finally got a chance to play alongside the team's best players - and it paid off almost immediately, with Wilson doing a nice job of going to the net to deflect an Ovechkin shot for his first goal of the season, then adding his first assist of the season less than two minutes later. That'll do.