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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 9

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

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby Gave up four goals against the Canucks, but didn't get much help from the team in front of him (and turned aside 24 of the 25 shots he faced at even strength). He then followed it up with back-to-back one-goal performances against a couple of Division rivals, throwing in a number of sparkling saves in the process. Worth noting that he faced 96 shots this week - the first time he's seen 30+ shots in consecutive games all season, let alone in each outing over a three-game span.
Justin Peters Got the week off... and the way Holtby is going, and the way the schedule works out, isn't likely to get the start for another couple of weeks.
Karl Alzner Had pretty decent numbers on the week, with the exception of Saturday's win over the Devils - a game which was a rather up-and-down outing for Alzner overall, as he picked up his first goal of the season but also lost his man on the lone New Jersey goal, and took a penalty to boot.
John Carlson Picked up the first two-goal game of his career (and added an assist in the loss to the Canucks, then added an assist Saturday night to bring him into a tie for fifth among NHL defensemen in scoring. He also wasn't on the ice for a single goal-against at even strength... although he did get smacked around a bit by Vancouver's power play.
John Erskine The blue line continues to get healthier, more cluttered, and therefore much less welcoming for whenever Erskine gets back to 100% health.
Mike Green Should make his return to the lineup on Tuesday night, which is good news for just about everyone...
Jack Hillen ...except for this guy. Hillen's done a decent, if not flashy, job of filling in while Green's been on the shelf, but he's simply not Mike Green and that alone is enough to land him back in the pressbox in the coming week.
Matt Niskanen Like Alzner, Niskanen's underlying numbers were pretty decent overall this week - and like Alzner, Niskanen was on the ice for two of the three even-strength goals the Caps gave up in the three games (and was partially responsible for the Devils' tally, as he failed to take Patrik Elias out of the play).
Dmitry Orlov Soon? Yes? Maybe?
Brooks Orpik Got a bit lost on the penalty kill Tuesday night, but continues to provide a physical presence in any number of areas for the Caps. He now has 99 hits, tied for fourth in the League in that department, and 75 blocked shots, third in the NHL - and is the only player in the League to be among the leaders in both areas.
Nate Schmidt Was one of a number of Caps to get a penalty-box view to a Canucks' goal Tuesday night, but otherwise had a pretty quiet week. Of all the Caps, Schmidt will probably be the most relieved to have Green back in the lineup... which may say as much about his abilities as it does about Green's importance. Much easier to play well when paired with a very good player.
Nicklas Backstrom Picked up an assist on Carlson's first goal Tuesday night, capping off a six-game point streak for Backstrom, but didn't have a point in either of the two games that followed - just the third time all season that he's gone consecutive games without popping up on the scoresheet.
Jay Beagle His goal against the Hurricanes was exactly the gritty, semi-ugly goal you'd expect from a fourth-line player; his goal two nights later, not so much, as Beagle whipped out some slick moves to put the eventual game-winner past Cory Schneider (and was one of just three Caps to finish with a Fenwick% of at least 50% on Saturday). With those two goals, Beagle ties his career-high in goals and now has his first goal-scoring streak since... well, ever.
Troy Brouwer Was in the box for one of Vancouver's three power-play goals on Tuesday and on the ice for the lone tally the Caps gave up Thursday night. He's also been largely MIA on the scoresheet for the better part of a month, with just one even-strength point (and two overall) since November 11. Luckily the Caps are getting secondary scoring from some other areas, but they need more from Brouwer and friends going forward.
Andre Burakovsky See Brouwer's offensive struggles and multiply them, as Burakovsky's down to a single point in his last ten games, and was a healthy scratch Saturday night. That said, his coach is already planning to get him back into that second-line center role soon... and considering the fact that he's just two months shy of his 20th birthday (and learning a new position), it's probably a bit too early to worry all that much about his recent struggles.
Jason Chimera Has stepped up his game over the last week, with assists in two of the last three games and a particularly strong outing against the Hurricanes, in which he set up the game's opening tally. Watching him with Joel Ward last year was fun, sure, but perhaps this last week is showing that he's simply better suited to the fourth-line role he's been given.
Eric Fehr Was dominant in terms of possession on Tuesday night, then followed it up with good numbers over the course of the rest of the week - but that's not the best part. The best part is that Fehr had a point in each of the week's three games, including a great play to force a turnover for the late-game go-ahead goal against the Hurricanes, and has his first three-game point-scoring streak of the season.
Marcus Johansson Hasn't suffered quite as much of an offensive slump as the rest of his line, but is mired in a four-game pointless streak. The biggest reason? He's not shooting as much anymore, with just six shots in his last six games combined and zero shots in three of those six. Whether he's just seeing those numbers dip as a result of second-line struggles overall, or he's abandoned the game plan that got him off to a hot start (or perhaps a bit of both), it's something to keep an eye on - because you can't score if you don't shoot the puck, and right now he's not doing either.
Evgeny Kuznetsov Sat out Thursday night as a healthy scratch, then returned with a beauty of a power-play goal against the Devils to give him three points in his last four games. Of course, that three-in-four stretch follows a nine-game pointless streak... so like Burakovsky, there have been some growing pains to this season. And like Burakovsky, he's young and still learning.
Brooks Laich Scored a beautiful goal against Vancouver on Tuesday for his first of the season, had a strong game against the Hurricanes on Thursday and then picked up his 300th career point with an assist on Saturday (and added an empty-net goal to his totals for the night). Welcome back, sir.
Michael Latta Was a healthy scratch against the Canucks but returned to the lineup for the final two games of the week, and was part of back-to-back strong performances for the fourth line in each of those outings. He also logged his second- and third-highest TOI totals of the season in those games, and finished Saturday's contest with the team's best even-strength Corsi% (on a night when the Caps were steamrolled in that department).
Liam O'Brien
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After an improbable ride that saw him go from camp invitee to NHL roster player, O'Brien is on his way to the Bears - best of luck to Liam, one of the better stories of this young season.
Alex Ovechkin Ovechkin experienced a mini resurgence at the end of November, but has now gone pointless in his last four games - the second time he's gone at least four games without a point (and just the fourth time in his career). More troubling is that he's only got five shots on goal in his last three outings, a very un-Ovechkin-esque stretch in which he registered just a single shot in two of those three. Fun fact: Ovechkin's appeared in 705 NHL games... and in only 36 of those has he had just one shot on goal.
Aaron Volpatti Is presumably on the mend, and presumably averaging the same amount of ice time he'd be getting were he healthy.
Joel Ward Finished the week with the team's best Corsi% rating at even strength over the last three games, and three assists to go along with a strong week overall for the third line.
Tom Wilson Had a couple of shots, a couple of minor penalties, a couple of rough possession outings and an assist. It's now been about a month since Wilson was added to the top line... and jury's still out on whether he should stay there. Lately, though, it's hard not to wonder if there isn't a better spot for him to be (or a better option to skate alongside Ovechkin and Backstrom elsewhere in the lineup).

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

Caps Usage wk of 12.1.14