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Capital Ups and Downs, Week 17: Ovechkin Makes History

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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 Notes
Braden Holtby In the first game back, Holtby picked up roughly where he left off before the break, giving up four goals to the Blue Jackets - but he rebounded nicely after that, shutting out the Penguins Wednesday night. He followed up that solid performance with an even better one, turning aside 29 of 30 shots in an overtime loss to the Canadiens on Saturday. All told, Holtby's shutout streak lasted 137:48, moving him into a tie for second in the League in shutouts and bringing his save percentage on the season up to .923.
Justin Peters Stepped in to give Holtby a day off in the second of back-to-back games over the weekend, and wasn't as bad as he's been in recent (and not-so-recent) outings - despite giving up four goals. Sure, his rebound control on the Blues' first tally left something to be desired, and he's not the easiest goaltender to watch, but this was the first game in which he's posted at least .900 save percentage since his third game of the season back in October. That's something, right? Right?
Karl Alzner Wasn't on the ice for a single goal-against until the two for which he had a front-row seat on Sunday - and he's still seeing more goals (and more importantly, scoring chances) going towards the other team's net when he's on the ice. That's always good enough for Alzner, but he's also contributing to the offense, picking up his fourth goal of the season against the Blues and adding an assist against Pittsburgh.
John Carlson With an assist against the Blue Jackets, Carlson now has 30 on the season, equaling his career high... but that was it for the offense, a relatively down week in that department. In terms of defense, the results were equally mediocre; he had rough underlying numbers at even strength in all but the loss to Montreal, and was on for a third of the goals given up this week. Not horrible, but not where we expect him to be, either.
John Erskine Interesting note from this piece by Chuck Gormley is that Big John might retire. If true (and there's no more information provided aside from the brief mention of Erskine, so who knows how much of that is speculation) it's sad, but not surprising given how long his recovery has taken. Guess we'll have to wait and see.
Mike Green Continues to see his underlying stats take a hit since being paired up with Hillen, but has picked up his game offensively, with a goal (his first in over a month) and three assists this week. Sunday marked his fourth multipoint game in the last seven, and his 11th on the year - tied with Kris Letang for the most among NHL defensemen. Now if only the Caps would use him to pile on the offense when they take the lead.
Jack Hillen Has put up roughly the same even-strength stats as his defensive partner, without all of the offensive upside, and took a couple of penalties. Interesting to see his ice time on Sunday, which dipped down to 8:46, his second-lowest of the season; that's not necessarily worth mentioning, except for the fact that Green checked in with a season-high TOI of 23:24 (and over 16 of those minutes at even strength). Could it be that Barry Trotz is starting to lose faith in #38?
Matt Niskanen A bit of an up-and-down week for Niskanen this week, with a couple of assists, a penalty, and a CF% over 65% at even strength in three of the four games (and "just" 56% in the fourth one). He's still looking for his first even-strength goal of the year, and he had the great misfortune of being on the ice for that overtime winner in Montreal, but all in all not too bad.
Dmitry Orlov Nothing's happening, nothing's been ruled out... hard not to feel bad for the kid.
Brooks Orpik Was on for six of the nine goals against this week, including the game-winner against the Habs (where he probably needed to do more to take Tomas Plekanec out of the play) and took a couple of penalties (one of which was a weak call, the other probably legit). Still fun to see him out-duel Sidney Crosby, which he's now done twice this year, but the rest is just not good enough for the minutes he's getting.
Cameron Schilling
Hershey Kiss Icon
He arrived, he sat... he left. Although hey, at least he got a trip to Montreal and an NHL salary for a few days out of the deal.
Nicklas Backstrom Ho hum, just another five assists in four games for Backstrom to give him 37 on the season (tied for second in the League) and extend his team lead in points to 52 (tied for third). At least a couple of those were of the beautiful variety, including his setup for Ovechkin's power-play goal against the Penguins, and he now has over 400 for his career... which is almost enough to erase the fact that he took yet another late-game penalty to negate a comeback against the Blue Jackets Tuesday night.
Jay Beagle Moved up to the top line to face Pittsburgh and remained there through the weekend, where he did help wreak a bit of havoc in the offensive zone and picked up some nice possession stats. That said, to go four games with no points while your linemates combine for nine over that same span... at some point one has to question what value he's bringing to the trio. And that point was last year.
Troy Brouwer Had a strong game against the Jackets, picking up his 13th goal of the year, and a rough game on Sunday against the Blues. In between? Not a whole lot. Feels like we've said this a time or two this year, but the Caps need more from Brouwer.
Andre Burakovsky His goal against the Jackets on Tuesday night was his second goal and fourth point in his last three games... so of course it was his last game of the week, exiled to the press box for the remaining three games in favor of Beagle. He may not be quite ready for top-line responsibilities just yet, but the lineup is better with him in it and he deserves a chance to play.
Jason Chimera On Saturday afternoon, the Caps had 69 shot attempts towards the Montreal net; Chimera was on the ice for exactly one of those (and 14 that went the other way). The season in a nutshell for #25.
Eric Fehr Scored a gorgeous goal against the Penguins and kicked the pants off of Crosby in the faceoff circle (although oddly enough that was the lone game of the four in which he had an even-strength CF% below 50%), but an otherwise quiet stretch for Fehr this week.
Marcus Johansson Picked up a couple of assists and posted some strong possession numbers at even strength to cap up a relatively non-flashy but solid week for Johansson.
Evgeny Kuznetsov After a few weeks of seeming oh-so-close to snapping his goal drought, Kuznetsov finally broke through with a goal against the Blue Jackets Tuesday night. He added an assist in that game (part of a strong night overall for him and his line) and an assist against the Penguins for his first two-game point streak since the end of December. Now he just needs to find that offense consistently...
Brooks Laich Laich was starting to heat up at the end of December and into the beginning of January, but since has gone a bit cold, his assist against the Penguins just his second point in the last nine games. Along with Ward and Fehr, Laich has done good work on the forecheck against the opposition, and the underlying numbers mostly show that - now the puck just needs to start going in on a more regular basis.
Michael Latta After sitting out most of the month, Latta got back into the lineup against the Penguins and stood out for his gritty play (and some surprisingly slick moves that almost resulted in a goal). Not much else to tell for the week - but it's worth noting that every time someone punches Steve Downie, an angel gets its wings. Well done, kid.
Alex Ovechkin We're running out of adjectives to describe Alex Ovechkin, who continues to defy expectations (remember when hiring Barry Trotz meant the end of his torrid goal-scoring pace? Good times...). On Sunday he made history - again - when he scored his 30th goal of the season, becoming one of just five players ever to accomplish that feat in each of his first ten seasons. Oh, and then all he did was add his League-leading 31st later in the game to cap off a four-goal, five-point week for himself.
Aaron Volpatti Some might say he's in contract limbo; others would probably note that he's just heading on the road toward becoming a free agent. Your pick.
Joel Ward Decent underlying numbers, but no points, and like Laich, has just two since the start of 2015. It's not that he's doing anything particularly wrong - and he's getting shots on net while helping to wear down the other team a bit - but it would be nice if he started to find the offense that's fallen off a bit. And it will.
Tom Wilson Took a bad penalty against the Jackets, got into a "good" fight against the Penguins, took another bad penalty against the Canadiens (although at least he took Plekanec with him)... and then found himself on the top line by the end of Sunday's loss. Like Burakovsky, it's hard to figure out exactly what Trotz's plan is for Wilson going forward.

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