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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 12

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

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby It's been pretty special to watch Holtby over the last two months or so. He's easily been the team's best player over that stretch, a pattern which continued this week with another handful of stellar performances. Over the course of the week's three games, he faced 97 shots and gave up just five goals (three at even strength) for a super-human save percentage of .968 - and oh yeah, posted a shutout to earn his first career win against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Justin Peters We thought he might get the nod for one of the back-to-back games this week, and in general that might have been wise. But considering how well Holtby's been playing, and considering that his overall save percentage this year (.872) is actually lower than Holtby's on the second of back-to-backs... maybe it's okay that Barry Trotz made the call that he did. Maybe.
Karl Alzner After a couple of weeks in which his underlying numbers have dipped a little (while his offense has picked up), Alzner was back on the right side of the puck this week. His 62.3% CF at even strength was tops among Caps' defensemen over the three-game stretch (and second-best on the team as a whole), and he wasn't on the ice for a single goal against.
John Carlson Had a bit of an adventure against the Rangers, as he was on the ice for all six goals scored in the game - but he did assist on both of the Caps' goals in the loss (and added a helper against the Pens) as he continues to produce offensively. Meanwhile at the other end of the ice, his 11 blocked shots led the team and were almost twice as many as the next-highest... Orpik, with six.
John Erskine No updates, no information, no news... no problem.
Mike Green Assisted on both Caps' goals against the Sens, and "assisted" on Ottawa's lone tally after he had his pocket picked by Erik Condra. He wasn't great against the Penguins, either, particularly in the defensive zone, and his overall CF% at even strength was tied for the second-lowest on the team... ahead of only his defensive partner, Jack Hillen. Oddly enough, the lone game in which he skated with Schmidt instead of Hillen was also his only game on the right side of 50%.
Jack Hillen Played just about 20 minutes combined in his two games this week, was out-Corsi'd 27 to 13 (against relatively weak competition)... tough to see him as the best option for the team's sixth defenseman going forward.
Matt Niskanen Like Alzner, Niskanen's possession numbers were back where they should be (including an impressive 67% CF% at even strength in his return to Pittsburgh) and he wasn't on the ice for a single goal against this week. That said, he also went without a point in any of the three games and has now gone seven straight without showing up on the scoresheet - which might be why Trotz all but yanked him from the power play against Ottawa and New York (although he was back up to almost two minutes against the Pens).
Dmitry Orlov Still injured but at least he got to spend Christmas in Miami with the boys, so... score?
Brooks Orpik This was an extremely good week for Orpik overall, with an even-strength CF% of 59.8%, 15 hits (including eight against his old team) and an assist on Johansson's goal in Pittsburgh (as well as the shot block that started the whole thing). That his best game was probably the toughest for him is a testament to the kind of focus and professionalism he brings to the Caps' blueline.
Nate Schmidt Scratched for the Ottawa game, in for the lone loss on the week (with less than ten minutes in his one game) and then back on the sidelines for Saturday's win. Continues to be hit or miss in his own end, and it'll be interesting to see whether the coach continues to alternate him and Hillen going forward.
Nicklas Backstrom Picked up the eventual game-winner against the Sens for his 11th goal of the year (and his sixth in five games), and won just under 60% of his draws on the week, an area in which he's very quietly moved into the League's top 20. He was relatively quiet the rest of the week, though, except when he wasn't... his undisciplined double minor for high-sticking just about ended the Caps' comeback against the Rangers, and he followed that up with a minor for flipping the puck out of play in the late stages of Saturday's win. Very un-Backstrom-like.
Jay Beagle A shot that he "muffin'd" (his word) managed to get through Craig Anderson on Monday night, which not only opened the game's scoring but also set a new career high in goals... and then he went ahead and set a new career high in points with an assist Saturday night. He's playing some extremely good hockey these days, so much so that his coach is comfortable giving him shifts with just about every line - and unlike last year, he hasn't looked out of place on any of them.
Troy Brouwer He's been scoring more goals of late, but amazingly enough his assist on Kuznetsov's goal Tuesday night was his first helper in about three weeks. Just further proof that the "second" line simply isn't producing the way they should be.
Andre Burakovsky Followed up a pretty decent night possession-wise in New York with a pretty awful one against the Pens, and can't seem to find the rhythm that had him putting up big numbers early in the season. Skating less than ten minutes a night on average isn't going to help him with that... but at least he's getting a significant chunk of that ice time with the extra man, so he's not being completely buried on the fourth line. Which is something.
Jason Chimera Chimera actually led the team in even-strength CF% this week, but considering his limited ice time (and the fact that he was scratched in one of the three games) that doesn't count for a whole lot. An otherwise quiet week was interrupted by yet another ill-timed penalty, though, this time a faceoff violation that put the Caps down by two men in the final minutes of the game at MSG - and led to the nail-in-the-coffin tally by the Rangers.
Eric Fehr A good week in terms of possession translated into two more goals for Fehr - both against the Penguins, his second career two-goal game in the 'Burgh (the first, of course, being the 2011 Winter Classic). Nice to see him start to heat up, with six of his nine goals on the season being scored in the month of December.
Marcus Johansson Snapped a five-game pointless streak with an assist against the Senators on Monday, followed it up with another assist against the Rangers, then ended a 12-game goalless drought with his snipe over the shoulder of Marc-Andre Fleury on Saturday. That goal puts him in double digits for the third time in his career, and he now sits just four goals shy of his career-best 14, set back in 2011-12. Keep that mojo going, MoJo!
Evgeny Kuznetsov Kuznetsov rounded out the scoring party by the "second" line this week, picking up a goal and two assists in his own right. The team still needs more from them - and on a more consistent basis - but the fact that all three members of that trio got on the scoresheet this week is a good sign. Here's hoping it continues.
Brooks Laich Really good possession numbers, solid penalty killing, an assist on the eventual game-winner Saturday night and just general chaos in front of the opponent's net? That's exactly what the Caps need (and expect) to get out of Laich.
Michael Latta Put up some decent underlying numbers, but other than having a front-row seat to one of the Rangers' two even-strength goals on Tuesday (and getting a ten-minute breather against the Sens after some general feistiness) it was a pretty quiet week for the breakout star of EPIX's Road to the Winter Classic.
Alex Ovechkin Had one of those weeks where nothing was quite bouncing his way - and considering that he had an insane 37 (37!) shot attempts over the three games, including 18 in the win over the Pens, it's probably a good thing for his opponents that they weren't. All he had to show for it was a single goal, his 16th of the season... but you have to think the points start to pick up if he keeps that pace going.
Aaron Volpatti Remains on LTIR and appears set to stay there for the foreseeable future... whether he needs to be or not. Which pretty much says everything you need to know about what the team sees his role as this year.
Joel Ward Helped set up (and just as easily could have scored) the goal eventually credited as Fehr's second in Pittsburgh, and was a big part of that line's persistent forecheck all game long. A nice capper to a week that saw Ward put up some nice possession numbers, if not much else.
Tom Wilson After getting called out a bit by his coach for having pucks "die" with him, he sat out as a healthy scratch against the Rangers on Tuesday night. When he returned on Saturday night, he brought some physicality and energy and drew a couple of penalties... but didn't do much else, and was then stapled to the bench in favor of a three-line rotation that for the most part didn't include him. You'd think there would have to be a role for him that falls somewhere between top-line winger and healthy scratch, no?

Advanced stats and this week's five-on-five usage chart (below) via

Caps Usage Chart 12.28.14