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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 11

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

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby A second-consecutive 2-0-1 week, this one with a .934 save percentage (.954 at even-strength), a 1.61 goals against average and the longest shootout in NHL history, has Holtby at 6-1-2/.927/2.08 for December. At the risk of stating the obvious, he's carrying his team in a big way right now.
Justin Peters Has had the best seat in the house for every game in December, and with a tough schedule ahead and no back-to-backs after tonight and tomorrow until January 7 and 8, Peters may be taking in games from that same spot for a couple more weeks if he doesn't draw in for one of those.
Karl Alzner Scored a pretty goal and added an assist in the win over Columbus and followed it up in Jersey with his first three-shot game since March. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised by the increased output for the Caps' Mr. December - 21 of Alzner's 69 career points (and five of his nine goals) have come in the years' last month. (Oh, and Alzner also was only on the ice for one goal-against on the week, a power-play tally in C'bus, though his defensive play and puck possession numbers seemed to have slipped a bit recently.)
John Carlson Picked up a pair of helpers on Saturday night and is now third among NHL blueliners in assists (and second in even-strength assists). Since Thanksgiving, Carlson has a dozen points in 11 games, with just two of those points coming on the power play. That's some pretty awesome production, and certainly helps to mitigate things like the fact that he was on the ice for more goals-against than any other Caps skater last week (three, two of which were Blue Jackets power-play tallies).
John Erskine No news is no news.
Mike Green Was terrific against the Jackets, picking up two assists including the set-up on the game-winner at the end of a vintage Mike Green rush, then picked up the eventual game-winner (i.e. the first goal) against the Devils, his first tally since October 22. The Caps are a different team with Green in the lineup, as he's most certainly an "X-factor."
Jack Hillen Drew in for Nate Schmidt on Saturday night and picked up his first point of the season (second as a Cap), an assist on that Green goal. Not a terrible option as a seventh defenseman.
Matt Niskanen Played more than 66 minutes on the week and was on the ice for two goals-for and nary a single goal-against. His underlying numbers were a little more uneven, but it was a pretty quiet week for the two car overall
Dmitry Orlov It's hard not to wonder how much the 23-year-old's development will be stunted by this long layoff.
Brooks Orpik Playing in his 734th career game, Orpik had his first ever shootout attempt down in Sunrise and deked and scored like it was no big thing then picked up his first assist in a dozen games on Thursday night. He's had his ups and downs so far, but is probably delivering pretty close to what the Caps could've reasonably expected... other than that shootout goal, of course.
Nate Schmidt Was on the ice (and a bit lost) for the Jackets' fourth goal on Thursday night then in the press box Saturday evening. But that goal seemed to be more the straw that broke the camel's back than the reason for the scratch. (And just after we'd praised him, too.)
Nicklas Backstrom With a three-point performance on Saturday night (two goals, one assist), the remarkably consistent Backstrom is back on a point-per-game pace not only for this season, but also for his career (528 points in 527 games... yes, really). And while the Devils game did snap a string of five-straight games with a five-on-five Corsi-For percentage of 55% or better, he's still at 58.6% over the past half-dozen games, which is terrific. Elite player, plain and simple.
Jay Beagle Picked up two assists in Jersey (his first since November 20) and is seeing some situational spot duty on the top line... which is how he ended up with primary helpers on those Backstrom's tallies.
Troy Brouwer Scored in Florida, scored (and fought) in Columbus, giving him four goals over a five-game span. That's good, but the Caps still need more from him and his linemates at even-strength.
Andre Burakovsky
Hershey Kiss Icon
His ice time dwindled and the healthy scratches piled up, so the Caps sent Burakovsky to Hershey for the weekend to get a couple of games in. Now he's back, hopefully to play. A lot.
Jason Chimera Scored and added an assist against his former team on Thursday night (the goal was his first since November 20), but is little more than a fringe fourth-liner right now, and should need to contribute more to earn a sweater on a regular basis.
Eric Fehr Finished off the Jackets in overtime (his second point of the night) and has four goals in his last eight games from the third (or "third") line.
Marcus Johansson No goals in his last ten games, no points in his last five, and no shots on goal in five of his last ten. November's Johansson needs to sit down with December's Johansson and straighten him out.
Evgeny Kuznetsov See Brouwer and Johansson. Kuznetsov was better against Columbus and Jersey than he had been leading up to those games, but that trio hasn't been good enough for a while now.
Brooks Laich Pointless in five is more forgivable when you're playing great defense and winning possession battles... and Laich isn't right now. And the fact that Laich's line is essentially the Caps' second line means that those scoreless stretches can't go on too long.
Michael Latta Registered his first career multi-point game with a pair of assists in Columbus. Solid fourth-line pivot.
Alex Ovechkin Snapped a four-game goal-less streak with one for the career highlight reel against the Devils. The points haven't been there lately, but just about everything else has, including 17 shots on goal last week (and a whopping 40 in his last six games) and a 58.3% Corsi-For over that span. Ovechkin is playing some of the best hockey we've seen from him in a while.
Aaron Volpatti Back from Hershey and back to the IR.
Joel Ward Potted his first goal in eight games in the win over the Blue Jackets, so there's that.
Tom Wilson Benched during the Jersey win, Wilson's underlying numbers are still strong, but he's skated nine games with Backstrom and Ovechkin since his last goal, which is fairly hard to do... unless you're not shooting, and Wilson isn't (just three shots on goal in his last seven games). Shoot more, fight less.

Advanced stats and this week's five-on-five usage chart (below) via (and here's how it looks without Hillen's numbers turning everyone else blue):

Usage 12.21