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Capital Ups and Downs, Week 20: Backstrom Headlines Top Line

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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 Played all four games this week and ceded only seven goals on 108 shots for a save percentage of just under 94% - and had little to no chance on at least a few of those seven he gave up. Add in the fact that he turned aside all three Islanders shooters in the shootout (one of the better shootout teams in the League), and just another stellar week for Holtby. Even if he did finally give up a goal to the Penguins.
Justin Peters Another week of riding the pine, even when the team was facing back-to-back matinee games, just shows how much trust Barry Trotz has in his backup netminder right now.
Karl Alzner Had a bit of a rough run at even strength, with just one of the four games at or above 50% in even-strength CF%. But he also was on for just one even-strength goal-against on the week (and four goals-for)... and picked up his 11th and 12th assists of the season to bring him just two points shy of his career-high.
John Carlson Speaking of assists, Carlson added #32 in his own right this week, and goal #8 and 9 - which gives him four goals in his last eight games, an amazing outburst considering he'd had just one in the 28 games prior to that stretch. Not too bad a week for him at the other end of the rink, either. He had a rough game against the Islanders, on for both goals against (including the tying one in the last minute...something that's been rare of late), but otherwise pretty solid, including a dominant performance against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins' top line and the highest relative Corsi % of any Caps' blueliner for the week.
John Erskine Not this week, either.
Mike Green Was on the ice for that disastrous sequence that resulted in the first goal scored on Holtby by the Penguins this year, and the late game-winner by Michael Del Zotto yesterday, but otherwise had a very good week at both ends of the ice, at even strength and on the power play. He also added two assists, bringing him to 30 on the season and making the Caps the only team with two blueliners to have hit the 30-assist mark so far this season. Not bad.
Jack Hillen Another relatively uneventful but unimpressive week for Hillen, which ended with the interesting revelation yesterday from Trotz that the organization wanted to get a good look at what they had at 6D leading up to the trade deadline (hence the Cameron Schilling call-up). Reading between the lines, this may mean that they're not completely at ease with what they've got right now. Stay tuned.
Matt Niskanen Did pretty much everything he could to take Jakub Voracek out of the play - except prevent the pass to Michael Del Zotto on the eventual game-winner yesterday, one of just two even-strength goals-against for which he was on the ice this week. His goal against the Islanders on Saturday was his first at even strength as a Cap, and (with an assist against the Jets) gives him three points in his last five games.
Dmitry Orlov Orlov is "feeling better", which is good - and if he can feel better in the next few weeks, that whole question of who gets that 6th-defenseman spot probably has a pretty satisfying answer. Fingers crossed.
Brooks Orpik Like Carlson, Orpik was on for both Islander goals on Saturday, but that was pretty much it in that department - and again, like Carlson, was solid most of the week and dominant in a pretty tough assignment against the Penguins' top line.
Cameron Schilling Got the call to be the team's seventh defenseman for the back-to-back weekend games, but actually ended up drawing in for Sunday's matinee loss in Philly. Limited minutes (just under 12) and sheltered ones at that, but didn't stand out in a negative way and finished with a positive CF% for his efforts - that's pretty much all we ask for from that 6th spot right now.
Nicklas Backstrom Had a four-game point streak snapped on Sunday, but the seven points he accumulated during those four games catapulted him from fourth in the NHL scoring race to a tie for (and for a brief moment, sole possession of) the League lead. And all he did in this week's games was score a beautiful goal and a lucky one, do his usual "holy crap that pass" thing a couple of times and finish the week with the second-highest CF% at evens. Just a continuation of an increasingly impressive season for Backstrom, who is finally starting to get some recognition - and possibly some Hart consideration, too.
Jay Beagle Had an incredibly rough week possession-wise, with the worst relative Corsi-for percentage of any Cap appearing in all four games (and second-worst overall)... which naturally led to him being bumped up to the top line by the time the Caps arrived in Philadelphia. Luckily (or unluckily) that promotion was brief, as an offensive-zone penalty early in the game led to a Flyers power-play goal and Beagle's return to his rightful place on the fourth line. Woof.
Troy Brouwer It's great that Trotz thinks of Brouwer as a calming, mentor-like presence for one of his rookies, but the fact is that the combination just doesn't seem to be working anymore - and if anything, might be holding Kuznetsov back. Brouwer did pick up an assist on the power play, and a shorthanded empty-netter, but also earned two trips to the sin bin and one of the team's worst CF% at evens on the week.
Andre Burakovsky No points on the week for Burakovsky, but he's looked very steady alongside Backstrom and Ovechkin, and led the team in with a dominant 61.5% Corsi-For percentage at evens. So naturally that earned him the day off against the Flyers (although that seems to be the pattern for Trotz when Philly comes up in the schedule). More Burakovsky on the top line, please.
Jason Chimera After sitting out the first two games of the week, Chimera drew back in for the back-to-back against the Isles and Flyers, and actually wasn't awful. He had relatively decent possession stats - albeit in very limited minutes - and did what just about everyone in the world wants to do: punch Zac Rinaldo (the legality of which can be argued, but the satisfaction in watching it cannot). That said... please no more Chimera on the power play. Painful.
Eric Fehr Won 56.6% of his faceoffs this week and scored a beautiful goal against the Islanders on Saturday, but was on the wrong side of 50% in CF% every game and was on the ice for four of the seven goals-against this week. Worth noting that he had just one shot on goal in two of the four games, and zero against the Flyers on Sunday. The third line has been stagnant of late, and that's not going to change if he's not putting the puck on net.
Marcus Johansson Had two assists - both on the power play - against the Jets, easily his best game of the week (and the only one with positive possession stats), but didn't do much otherwise, including in Sunday's loss when he was quickly bumped up to top-line right wing.
Evgeny Kuznetsov Somewhat troubling that a guy with the type of shot Kuznetsov possesses isn't using it (or at least isn't hitting the mark) - he had just three shots on goal total in the week's four games, and none in the last two. No points on the week, either, but he did have very strong possession numbers overall - so at this point, you have to think he's a victim of that second line and not the cause of its problems, right?
Brooks Laich Snapped an 11-game pointless streak with a nice assist on Fehr's goal against the Islanders, then lucked into a second assist on Ward's fluky goal the next day - but he's still waiting to hit the back of the net in his own right, mired in a drought that stretches back to January 7 (22 games). It's great that he finally seems to be staying healthy, and he's playing better than it may seem, but eventually those underlying stats need to show up on the scoresheet - and they're just not.
Michael Latta Got into a scrap with Pittsburgh's Robert Bortuzzo on Tuesday, was on for too many shot attempts towards his own net (but no goals) against the Jets, then got the day off against the Islanders on Saturday. He returned to be his pesky self against Philly, and was a big part of the play that set up Wilson's goal to cut the Flyers' lead in half. At this point he is what he is - a sparkplug who can get the other team riled up, which is not such a bad thing.
Alex Ovechkin Picked up a goal and an assist in each of the week's first two games, then went a bit quiet over the weekend (although not for lack of trying, with 25 shot attempts to his credit, including a few posts). Continues to lead the League in goals, continues to put up solid possession numbers at even strength, continues to be the lightning rod on the power play, and continues to play with that edge to his game that makes him fun to watch. Another solid week for one of the all-time greats.
Aaron Volpatti After playing just two games, Volpatti was back to sitting out games - as a healthy scratch this time. Which is probably fine.
Joel Ward Made sure to be in the perfect spot to cash in on a golden Backstrom pass Tuesday night (and added an assist), then got a lucky bounce for the game-tying marker against the Flyers on Sunday. Believe it or not, those three points tie the most he's had in a four-game stretch since early December, and his goal in Philly was the only one of his three points this week that was earned at even strength. Like the rest of his line, the Caps need more on a more consistent basis.
Tom Wilson A couple of good possession games, a couple of bad ones for Wilson this week, but all in limited minutes, as usual. They were eventful minutes, though, as he ruffled some feathers in Pittsburgh, dropped the gloves with Matt Martin in Saturday's win (because that's all Matt Martin really does) and then picked up his third goal of the season - and first since November 29 - against the Flyers, which was fun to watch.

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