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Capital Ups and Downs, Week 3: Go West, Young Men

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

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

(Ed. Note: In weeks where the lines are shuffled, ratings below will be based on the most recent line combinations.)

Forward Line Trend Notes
Alex Ovechkin
The new-look top line was cobbled together ahead of Saturday's bout in Vancouver, and while they have yet to find the back of the net together (save for the disallowed goal against the Canucks), it hasn't been for lack of trying. All three finished with an even-strength CF% north of 62% in BC, although that was followed by a slightly less effective outing in Calgary, and with another game or two under their belts some of those bad bounces might start going their way again.
Nicklas Backstrom
Justin Williams
Marcus Johansson
Lately it seems as if the Caps' offense has been driven not by their big name stars but, to some extent, by Johansson, who has heated up on this Western Canadian road trip to the tune of back-to-back two-goal outings. He's also helped reinvigorate the team's dormant power play, scoring the only extra-man goals the Caps had this week (one in Calgary, one in Vancouver). Add in the fact that Wilson was able to pick up his first of the year, and Kuznetsov seems to be finding his legs again, and this unexpected trio is coming off of a pretty great week.
Evgeny Kuznetsov
Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky
Like the top line, the new third line wasn't exactly offensively explosive this week, but they put up a couple of points (two for Oshie, two for Burakovsky) over the weekend. They were also much more dominant in terms of possession than that trio, with all three putting up impressive even-strength CF% - including Eller's team-leading 68.75% for the week. And while Eller was the only one of the three to finish the week with no points, he led his linemates in individual scoring chances at even strength with three, and seems just on the edge of going on a bit of a points spree.
Lars Eller
T.J. Oshie
Zach Sanford
Any time you can have a guy get his first goal as a Cap, and have the assist go in the books as his linemate's first NHL point (and rounded out by a two-assist night for their linemate), that's a pretty good night - especially when it's a "fourth" line making a contribution. They did get burned for one goal against in Vancouver, but all in all, not bad.
Jay Beagle
Brett Connolly
Defensive Pair Trend Notes
Matt Niskanen
Not the strongest of weeks defensively for Niskanen and Alzner, who were on for more scoring chances against than for at even strength (Alzner at 33.33%, Niskanen at 37.50%), and both were dinged for two goals-against in the process. They did lead the way in offense, though, with Niskanen picking up a pair of assists and Alzner becoming the first Caps' blueliner to score a goal this season. Which we all totally called.
Karl Alzner
John Carlson
The team's most exciting - that's a word for it, right? - blueline duo continues to keep things entertaining, as they looked dominant from a possession standpoint (as usual) but struggled in their own end (ditto). Both were on for two even-strength goals against on the week, and no goals for, but generated more scoring chances than their opponents. So... same old?
Dmitry Orlov
Brooks Orpik
As the Caps' de facto third pair, Schmidt and Orpik are the most sheltered of the blueliners - but they're doing their job nonetheless, limiting opponents' scoring chances (although like their compatriots, they were each on for a couple of goals against this week).
Nate Schmidt
Goalie Trend Notes
Braden Holtby EVEN Had something of a rough run against the Oilers (in part thanks - or more accurately, no thanks - to the team in front of him), giving up four goals on 29 shots in what was probably his, and the Caps, worst game of the year. He rebounded nicely in his next outing, giving up just a lone tally to the Flames to get himself back on track.
Philipp Grubauer UP Continues to have a strong start to the season, stopping 23 of the 25 shots he faced in Vancouver to snap the team's losing streak at two games. There's nothing even close to a goalie controversy here, so don't even think it - but it is awfully nice (and something of a rarity) to have a backup capable of putting in strong performances every time out, and Grubauer is doing just that.
Situational Trend Notes
Even Strength EVEN The Caps haven't been quite as dominant in recent days as they were earlier in the season when skating five a side, but still kept teams to an average of two even-strength goals per game over the last week. That puts them at ten even-strength goals on the season, third-fewest in the League, and have the second-highest CF% at even strength (54.21%) behind LA.
Power Play UP It's showing signs of life, with a couple of power-play strikes on the week (two for seven overall) - both scored by Johansson - and have moved up to a robust 17.4% on the year. Next step? Spread the scoring around a bit, because Johansson shouldn't have to carry a group as talented as this one.
Penalty Kill UP Don't look now, but after a rough start to the season, the Caps have now killed off 10 of their last 11 power plays. Special teams righting themselves... who would've thunk it?
Stats from,,, Hockey-Reference, and