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Capital Ups and Downs, Week 19: Top Line Shines, Middle Six Struggles

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

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby Victimized by some bad bounces and bad defense, Holtby allowed four goals in an overtime win over San Jose and three in a loss to Los Angeles, marking only the third time he's allowed three or more goals in back-to-back starts since December 11. Yeah, we're not worried.
Justin Peters Had a "here we go again" start to Sunday's outing in Anaheim when he allowed two goals in the game's first 5:33. But Peters pulled it together and allowed just one more goal the rest of the way, which was good enough to pick up his first win since November 8. Of note, Peters stopped all nine third-period Ducks shots and all 11 power-play shots... but given that he hasn't held an opponent to fewer than three goals in a start in four months, confidence in Peters is still pretty low.
Karl Alzner Struggled against the Sharks and Kings, but was better against the Ducks. Still, Alzner had the second-worst relative Corsi-For percentage among the team's blueliners for the week (only Jack Hillen, in two games, was worse), which is pretty uncharacteristic for him.
John Carlson Had a huge goal and an assist in San Jose and put up relatively good underlying numbers (though he was a bit of an adventure in Anaheim). Carlson continues to be on the ice for a ton of goals at both ends of the ice, and last week was no exception as he was on for a team-high six goals against (five at even strength) and five goals-for (all at evens).
John Erskine Nope, not this week.
Mike Green Set-up the overtime game-winner against the Sharks and had one of those patented "here's a perfect feed for that one-time thing you do on the power play, Ovi" against the Ducks, but didn't do much at five-on-five... and it's not hard to figure out why.
Jack Hillen Made a good outlet pass to start the play that eventually became Andre Burakovsky's first goal on Sunday night, but had an otherwise very Hillen-like week - a healthy scratch and relatively poor underlying numbers. He is what he is.
Matt Niskanen Snapped a nine-game point-less streak with a terrific feed to Marcus Johansson in the Anaheim game, but had a pretty nondescript week otherwise.
Steve Oleksy Went to California for the mentors trip and drew in on Friday night in L.A., so there's that.
Dmitry Orlov Could Orlov be back soon? Maybe. If so, that could provide the Caps with a tremendous boost around the trade deadline without having to give up a thing.
Brooks Orpik Of the blueliners that suited up for more than one game last week, Orpik had the best relative Corsi-For percentage and chipped in three (yes, three) assists. Granted, he was bad on the Kings' first goal and pucks keep filling the Caps' net while he's out there (tied with Carlson for the lead with six-against last week, and an Eastern Conference-high 77 on the season), but... eh, maybe there is no but.
Nicklas Backstrom A pair of two-assist games sandwiched an 0-fer, and Backstrom now leads the League in helpers and is up to fourth in points. He's also riding a streak of eight-straight games in which he's had a positive relative Corsi-For percentage, so it's all systems go for the team's top pivot... even if his line is yielding goals a little more frequently than would be desired lately.
Jay Beagle Had his first career three-point game in San Jose, notching two goals and an assist on the overtime game-winner. Beagle also had the second-best relative Corsi-For percentage on the team among the guys who played all three games, and wasn't on the ice for a single goal-against. It's probably not a coincidence that he's doing well in a role in which he can reasonably be expected to succeed, namely on the fourth line.
Troy Brouwer Notched a power-play goal and had, arguably, a momentum-changing fight against the Sharks. But that was it for Brouwer, who managed all of three even-strength shot attempts all week (one in each game) and had the second-worst relative Corsi-For percentage on the team, just a tick better than linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Andre Burakovsky Skated on the fourth line on Wednesday and made a couple of nice plays (including his net drive on Beagle's first goal), but was rewarded with a healthy scratch on Saturday... and then a spot back on the top line on Sunday, where he responded with a pair of goals, including his first career game-winner and the nail in the Anaheim coffin. Burakovsky had the team's second-best relative Corsi-For percentage for the week (sitting out that L.A. game helps there, though it didn't help the team), and kudos to Barry Trotz for playing him with a one-goal lead in the third period even after he had taken a not-great hooking penalty earlier. No Cap had a better goal differential than Burakovsky (+4) last week, and that doesn't include any power-play tallies. It's probably not a coincidence that he's doing well in a role in which he can reasonably be expected to succeed, namely on the first line.
Jason Chimera Inexplicably has started five straight games on the second (third) line, and still has just one goal and one assist (both in the same game) in his last 13 games, with equally ugly underlying numbers to go along with that lack of production. In the five games Chimera has started alongside Kuznetsov and Brouwer, that line has been on the ice for two Caps goals (both in that first game, against Anaheim).
Eric Fehr Has hit a cold spell, with no goals in his last six games and no assists in his last 15. More importantly, Fehr's underlying numbers have slid (last week he actually had a worse relative Corsi-For percentage than Chimera, third-worst on the team), and he'd been on the ice for six opposition tallies since his last on-ice Caps goal before picking up a cheap plus on Johansson's goal Sunday.
Marcus Johansson Snapped a 12-game goal-less streak skating on the third line after a six-game stint on the top line failed to yield much of anything. It is worth noting, however, that Johansson had the highest relative Corsi-For percentage of any Caps skater that played all three games last week.
Evgeny Kuznetsov Up, down, up, down... guess we should expect some inconsistency from the still-young-and-learning Kuznetsov, and this past week was a downer (save for his sublime move and assist on the team's lone goal Saturday night). His relative Corsi-For percentage was the worst on the team after getting murdered in San Jose and Anaheim (solid in L.A., though), and as the trade deadline looms, how comfortable can the Caps be with Kuznetsov and Fehr as their 2nd and 3rd centers? (Better linemates would help the former, for what it's worth.)
Brooks Laich Demoted to the fourth line on Sunday for a game in which his goal-less streak hit 18 games (and his pointless streak hit nine), Laich has had a negative relative Corsi-For percentage in six of his last eight games (though the two were the first and last games last week), and has been on the ice for five goals-against since his last goal-for. The Caps need more from Laich.
Michael Latta This dude needs a goal. In both games he played last week (San Jose and Anaheim), Latta finished in the top-three Caps in five-on-five Corsi plus-minus (plus-six and plus-three, respectively), which helped him to the best relative Corsi-For percentage on the team, and he hasn't been on the ice for a goal-against in seven games. Solid work that deserves a reward here soon.
Alex Ovechkin Ovechkin "only" had a goal and an assist in the week's first two games, but made up for it with two goals and two primary assists in Sunday night's win. Eat it, Getzlaf.
Aaron Volpatti Played his second game of the season, against Los Angeles... which was also his second game of the season against Los Angeles. Yeah, I've got nothin'.
Joel Ward Scored the overtime game-winner in San Jose, but that's his only goal in his last 16 games, a span over which his relative Corsi-For and Goals-For percentages have been in the red. If Joel Ward isn't scoring, he's gotta be locking it down defensively, and that hasn't necessarily been the case of late.
Tom Wilson Scratch, mediocre game, scratch. Wilson's current usage isn't helping the Caps in the short- or long-term.

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