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Capital Ups and Downs, Week 6 & 7: Shooting Stars

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

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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

Forwards Trend Notes
Nicklas Backstrom UP No Capital had more points over the last seven games than Backstrom, who not only led the team but the League with 11 points in the last two weeks. Obviously a five-point game will boost that total... but even that was one more point than any of his teammates not named Ovechkin generated in the last two weeks. Add in the fact that five of his 11 points were goals, and not only is he producing at a high level, but he's also doing so in a seemingly un-Backstrom-like way.
Jay Beagle UP 21 games in and Beagle's four goals on the season are already equal to his third-highest total, and roughly halfway to his career-high set two seasons ago. He added to that total over this last stretch, picking up an assist on Oshie's shorthanded tally and adding the only offense in the 1-0 win over Detroit. He continues to do his job on the other side of the puck as well, particularly on the penalty kill where he won 20 of 28 faceoffs and was on for just two goals against (and one for).
Andre Burakovsky EVEN Put up four points over the last seven games, but is still looking for his first goal since his two-goal outburst opening night. Part of the problem? He's simply not generating enough chances, on net or otherwise - in the last two weeks he's got an iCF at even strength of 11.95, sixth among forwards, but only six shots on net (tied with Orpik and trailing Alzner by two, to put that into context). In fact, in three of the seven games he had no shots on goal, something he hadn't done the rest of the season.
Paul Carey EVEN Got the call up after the injury bug hit the Caps' forwards, and did a decent enough job of filling in for the one game in which he played - nothing more, nothing less.
Brett Connolly EVEN Since joining the Caps, Connolly has been mostly used in a fourth-line role (when he's been used at all). But the recent injuries up front have opened up some opportunities for someone like Connolly, particularly when it comes to special teams - and he made the most of it against the Sabres, picking up his first power-play goal, and first multi-point game, of the season. On the flip side? Five minor penalties in seven games is not ideal.
Lars Eller EVEN Played just one shift against the Red Wings before being the first of four forwards to make their way back to the locker room, missing the next game with what was apparently a reaggravated injury. Thankfully his absence was brief, as he was back to face his old team and then picked up an assist in the win over Buffalo two nights later - his first as a Cap. Over the last two weeks, no one had a higher even-strength CF/60 and CF%; even better is that he seems to be cutting back on his penalties, taking "just" two in his last six games.
Marcus Johansson EVEN How good has Johansson been this year? Along with Backstrom, he's providing the team with a dominant one-two punch on its "second" line. He picked up his eighth and ninth goals of the season (and adding an assist) over the last two weeks, trailing only his countryman in GF/60 in that span.
Evgeny Kuznetsov EVEN It's been a rough start for Kuznetsov so far, but he's showing signs of breaking out of his slump with a phenomenal game against the Blues - easily his best of the season by far. That said, it didn't seem to carry over much against the Sabres or the Leafs, and he hasn't generated all that much over the last two weeks - in points or mere chances - beyond that one good game. This team needs him to be firing on all cylinders, and he's just not right now.
T.J. Oshie + Oshie has easily been one of the team's best players through the season's first quarter, and had another four points in the first three games of this last seven-game stretch... right up until he was injured in the Detroit game. Now he's out week to week, and his absence is palpable.
Alex Ovechkin UP Picked up his first hat trick of the season in the win over St. Louis. Over the last seven games he's continued to score at about a point-per-game clip, and was held off the scoresheet in just two of those (the OT loss to Columbus and the 1-0 win over Detroit). Over that same stretch, he's struggled a bit in terms of possession, with a 45.9% CF at even strength and on for almost three times as many scoring chances against (21) as for (8). Still, it's hard to see that trend continuing for too much longer, whereas the scoring thing... that's kind of what he does best, and he's doing it.
Zach Sanford DOWN At times he's seemed to be so close to getting that elusive first NHL goal... but he has yet to connect, and while it's not necessarily due to lack of trying, it might be time to question whether he needs a bit more time to develop. His Rel CF% at even strength over the last two weeks was the second-lowest among all Caps, and he's simply not doing enough to warrant a nightly roster spot right now.
Justin Williams DOWN Williams led the Caps in even-strength SCF% (65.62%) and CF% (64.62%), trailed only Ovechkin in iCF/60, and generated the third-most shots on the team over the past two weeks... and had just one goal over that stretch, a power-play goal in the lopsided win over the Penguins. That's the season in a nutshell for Williams; he's doing everything but score, and his 10 PIMs in the last seven games might be a sign that the frustration is starting to show.
Tom Wilson EVEN He didn't do much on the offensive side, but he did earn over 19 minutes of shorthanded ice time over the last seven games, second only to Beagle among Caps forwards. That's notable for two reasons - one, he's clearly become a trusted member of the team's penalty-killing unit and two, he's staying out of the penalty box enough to generate that much shorthanded ice time.
Daniel Winnik UP PIcked up a goal against the Sabres, which now gives him more goals in 14 games with the Caps than he had in 20 games last season. He also finished the two-week stretch with the team's second best even-strength CF% and CF60, and the best Rel. CF%. Is he going to score all the time? No, but when he's not scoring he's keeping the puck in the other team's end more often than not, and that's all we can ask.
Defensemen Trend Notes
Matt Niskanen UP / + Continues to be a consistent, solid presence for the Caps on the blueline, and has stepped up his presence on the power play, earning close to three minutes more ice time than Carlson with the extra man. Along with Alzner, Niskanen has also seen far more shots and scoring chances going towards the opponents' net at even strength... so him leaving a game early with an apparent injury is bad news for the Caps. Here's hoping whatever kept him out of the second half of the Leafs game will be all better by Thursday.
Karl Alzner UP No one had a higher CF60 rate - or a lower CA60 rate - at even strength than Alzner. But what's up with the 0 points, Mr. Scoring Star?
John Carlson DOWN So far this season, Carlson has been able to balance his general lack of scoring with at least a positive bump in possession, but over the last two weeks he's been right about at 50% in terms of even-strength CF%. He was also on for five goals against... and still no goals of his own. Two more assists, though, so that's something.
Dmitry Orlov EVEN Same boat for Orlov, who has in general been stellar in terms of possession but saw it dip this week and was on for a team-leading six goals against. That said, he had points in three of the last seven games, with a goal of his own (against the Penguins) and a couple of assists.
Brooks Orpik EVEN Two defensemen were not on for a single goal against at even strength in the last two weeks; only one of them played all seven games. That was Orpik. Whatever he's doing, his new role seems to suit him quite nicely.
Nate Schmidt EVEN It's a bit of a shame that, due to his current role, Schmidt is the one to come out of the lineup when Chorney needs to get some ice time, because he's very quietly having a very good season for himself. No defenseman had a higher SCF60 rate at even strength than Schmidt, and with another assist he continues to be on pace for a career-best offensive year.
Taylor Chorney EVEN Appeared in just two of the last seven games, and while he isn't going to drive the offensive game anytime soon, he did a good job of keeping opponents' scoring chances to a minimum. No Caps' blueliner had a lower SCA60 rate than Chorney, and he even added an assist - his first point of the season.
Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby EVEN Picked up his first shutout of the season in a stellar performance against the Red Wings, helping to prop up a team that by the end of the night was down three players. Aside from that one game, however, the last two weeks have been something of a mixed bag for Holtby, who posted a good-not-great .917 save percentage (.939 at even strength) in his five games. That said, he got little help in one of his two losses and stopped all of the low and medium-danger chances at even strength (i.e. the saves he should make) in the five.
Philipp Grubauer UP Another phenomenal week for Grubauer, who took the overtime loss against Columbus and picked up another win on his birthday, giving up just one goal to Buffalo Friday evening. In those two games, he posted a pretty impressive save percentage just over .950 at even strength.
Situational Trend Notes
Even Strength EVEN The Caps continue to hold steady in terms of even-strength possession and production, with a CF% at five on five just over 52% and the seventh-lowest GA60 over the last seven games (along with the seventh-highest GF60 at five a side, as well).
Power Play EVEN Believe it or not, things are actually starting to improve with the extra man... slowly, yes, but improving nonetheless. They've even gotten a few power-play goals at five on four, a rarity up until the last two weeks. Overall? Five for 24, just over 20%. Not back to its former glory, but signs of life.
Penalty Kill EVEN After a disciplined start to the season, the Caps have seen their penalty minutes ramp up of late and tied the Jets and Flames for the second-most times shorthanded over the last two weeks with 28. That's the bad news. The good? They've killed most of them off, giving up just four goals for a PK rate of 85.7%. Even better, they've been picking up the shorthanded game, with their second shortie of the season against the Penguins.
Stats from,,, Hockey-Reference, and