clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Capital Ups and Downs, Week 1: Baby's Got Backstrom

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

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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

Goalies Trend Rink Rank* Notes
Braden Holtby
Thumbs Up Icon

If there were any lingering concerns about Holtby getting off to a slow start this year, they were likely put to rest after seeing him go to work in the season's first four games. He did give up three goals against both the Devils and Sharks, but two of those six were power-play markers (with a third coming after the Devils pulled their goalie). The rest of the way? Oh, just a couple of one-goal games against Carolina and Chicago, including a stellar performance to hold off a Blackhawks' second-period push on Thursday night.
Philipp Grubauer N/A Hasn't gotten a chance at the crease just yet, but with back-to-back games coming up on the team's Western Canada trip, there's a chance he might get in next week - and if not then, he'll get his looks soon enough.
Karl Alzner
Down Arrow Icon
Thumbs Up Icon

It's been a bit of a rough start for Alzner so far (and for the team's second defensive pair in general), with more shots going towards the net while he and Niskanen are on the ice than any other blueline pairing. It's early yet, though, so expect that to shake itself out.
John Carlson
Thumbs Up Icon

No one on the team - and that includes forwards - has gotten off to a hotter start in terms of offense than Carlson. His five points lead the team, and are tied for third in the League among all defensemen (as are his three power-play points). Of course, while he's been lighting up opponents, he's struggled a bit on the other side of the puck - but more shots are going towards the other team's net than his own when he's on patrol, so it's not too much of a concern. Yet.
Taylor Chorney
Thumbs Up Icon

He's only appeared in two of the four games, but Chorney's very quietly done his job and done it pretty well in relief of Nate Schmidt. It helps that he's played in two of the team's better games as a whole, of course, but he was on ice for only 20 shot attempts against in those two games and wasn't on for a single goal against.
Matt Niskanen
Down Arrow Icon
Thumbs Up Icon

Niskanen's struggles in the defensive end go hand in hand with Alzner's, and no Caps' blueliner has been on for more shot attempts-against than #2 in red. He's been a decent fill-in on the second power-play unit and has a couple of goals on the season (which is already halfway to his goal total from all of 2014-15), but one of those was an empty netter - and it's just not enough, yet, to balance out the struggles he's had in his own end. Like Alzner, we'd expect that to correct itself, but not the best start for the 2-27 pair overall.
Dmitry Orlov
Thumbs Up Icon

Poor Orlov. In his second game back after missing an entire season, he scores a rocket of a goal... only to have it taken away by a fairly controversial coach's challenge. That disappointment aside, Orlov has been pretty much what you'd expect from someone who sat out an entire year (and pretty much what you'd expect from Orlov himself) - at times brilliant, at other times a little rough. But he's back, and that can only be a good thing.
Brooks Orpik
Thumbs Up Icon

He's looked a bit rusty at times, but that's to be expected after having offseason surgery on his wrist and missing the entire preseason. Rust or no rust, though, it was great to see Orpik snap a lengthy goalless drought with his goal in the season opener. Welcome to the scoresheet, Brooks!
Nate Schmidt
Thumbs Up Icon

After a somewhat up-and-down start to the season, Schmidt found himself sitting out the year's third and fourth game. Tough to say at this point whether the issue is with Schmidt himself or with the Schmidt-Orlov pair overall, but Barry Trotz doesn't seem quite sold on #88 as the team's sixth defenseman just yet.
Nicklas Backstrom
Thumbs Up Icon

There aren't many guys who could have offseason hip surgery, miss all of training camp and the season's first three games, and then jump back into the lineup looking as if he hadn't missed a day - and pick up three points in the process.
Jay Beagle
Thumbs Up Icon

The team's third-line center has pretty much done what's expected of him through four games. He's winning faceoffs and killing penalties, and while he's been on the ice for slightly more shot attempts-against than for, that's to be expected while facing the other team's top line night after night. And yet... still no points? What happened to our scoring dynamo?
Andre Burakovsky
Down Arrow Icon
Thumbs Down Icon

Burakovsky's looked a bit lost to start the season, although it's likely that some (if not all) of that is due to a rotating role that's seen him center the second line and play on the fourth-line wing in a span of just four games. He picked up an assist against the 'Hawks, but has also been on the ice for more even-strength shot attempts against than any other forward.
Jason Chimera
Thumbs Up Icon

With all of the big-name upgrades over the summer and all of the big names already on the team, one of the best players through the first four games has been... Chimera? Yup. He opened up the scoring for the season with a shorthanded goal in Game #1, the first time in franchise history that the first goal has been a shortie. And while he stunningly hasn't maintained that torrid scoring pace, he's added an assist and basically made himself a pain in the butt to play against.
Sean Collins
Hershey Kiss Icon

Thumbs Down Icon


During training camp, Trotz sang Collins' praises, comparing him to both Joel Ward and a pickup truck (which we're still pretty sure is meant as a compliment). That was all well and good, but once the regular season got underway, the results were somewhat underwhelming. So when someone had to head to Hershey to make room for Backstrom's impending return, the decision was an easy one.
Stanislav Galiev
Thumbs Up Icon

Galiev's appeared in two of the team's four games this year, and has had a couple of flashes of strong play (and his first career assist) mixed with a bit of invisibility - not all that surprising considering that he's now appeared in exactly four NHL games. There's not really a place for him in the lineup at the moment, but expect him to stick around just to avoid waivers.
Marcus Johansson
Thumbs Up Icon

There was some question before the season started about where Johansson would fit into the lineup, but it appears he's beaten out Burakovsky for a spot on the second line and has had a very strong start in that role. He's picked up three points so far, but what's really been fun to watch is his ability to provide a screen on the power play - despite not being the biggest body. It's all about timing, and Johansson's got it down.
Evgeny Kuznetsov
Thumbs Up Icon

As the top line continues to gel, Kuznetsov still seems to be finding his rhythm offensively, with a couple of assists but no goals - yet. Offensive output aside, though, Kuznetsov and his ever-improving chemistry with both Oshie and Ovechkin has made it possible for the team to have something they haven't had in a long time: options.
Brooks Laich
Thumbs Down Icon

He's still looking for his first point (and clearly hasn't impressed many Caps fans so far), but Laich is actually off to a decent start. He's generating shots and limiting shots-against, and has the team's top mark in even-strength CF% to date. Of course, we've seen this movie before, and at some point he'll need to start producing... but with a more limited role and in just a handful of games, let's give it some time.
Michael Latta
Thumbs Down Icon

When the season started, the fourth-line center seemed to be Latta's to lose... but it looks like, for now, at least, he's lost it to Stephenson. Somewhat surprising considering that he didn't have an awful start to the year (although he did get somewhat abused by the Sharks in Tuesday's loss, despite not being on for any goals-against). With the team on a mini winning streak and Stephenson settling in, it'll be interesting to see when he draws back in
T.J. Oshie
Thumbs Up Icon

There's usually something of an adjustment period for players joining a new team, with or without reps in the preseason. Oshie's lasted... oh, about two games (and even in those two games, he seemed to be settling in just fine). He's developing some great chemistry alongside Ovechkin and Kuznetsov, has four points (tied with Ovechkin for second on the team) and has made himself at home on the power play, where he's already got two goals - a third of the way to his career-high in that department, just four games in.
Alex Ovechkin
Thumbs Up Icon

Things are never really dull when Ovechkin is around, are they? He kicked off the season with yet another highlight-reel goal and an assist (in a game in which he, and his line, really didn't play all that well overall). Then there was the alarm clock scandal that rocked the hockey world and cost him a spot in Tuesday's lineup, followed by another goal against the Blackhawks and a third in the dying minutes of Saturday's game to keep the streak alive. His next point will be his 900th career point, which is mind-boggling for the just-turned-30-year-old... and yet not at all surprising.
Chandler Stephenson
Thumbs Up Icon

One of the last players cut from training camp this year, there was a sense that Stephenson's time in Hershey would be brief - and brief it was, as he was back with the Caps after the disastrous loss to San Jose. He was solid in limited minutes against the Cup champs, then followed it up with a better outing (and more ice time) against the 'Canes in which he killed it possession-wise. He's yet to register even a shot on goal yet, but every shift he looks more comfortable and confident.
Justin Williams
Thumbs Up Icon

While he's still looking for his first goal with his new team, Williams has proven to be pretty much exactly as advertised - a skilled puck possession forward who can kill penalties and provides a calming presence whenever he's on the ice. Things haven't quite clicked with his Swedish linemates (whichever ones they may be on any given night) the way they have for Oshie and his Russians, and his turnover on Saturday night led to the lone Carolina goal, but the positives certainly outweigh the negatives.
Tom Wilson

Thumbs Up Icon


It's hard to judge players by what's on the scoresheet - or what isn't - this early in the season, and for someone like Wilson, the numbers aren't showing what he's done so far. It was his smart play with the puck that set up Orpik's first goal as a Cap in the season opener, his lone assist on the year. It was his physicality that drew a penalty and led to the game's first tally against the Blackhawks. And he's developing into a pretty decent penalty killer, as well - all positives for a player looking to add more dimension to his game.

*Rink Rank number is the percentage of total votes received by each player over the past week that were "thumbs up" - check out all of them here.

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

Week 1 Usage Chart