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Capital Ups and Downs, Week 9: Four Square

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

Buffalo Sabres v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

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

Forwards Trend Notes
Nicklas Backstrom UP Struggled a bit on the possession side of things, with two sub-50% CF nights - but that's very un-Backstrom-esque, which is why it's not all that concerning. Another reason, of course, is that he still produced offensively, salvaging two points for the team with his oh-so-patient overtime winner against the Bruins, then added two assists in the win over the Sabres in Buffalo for a three-point week.
Jay Beagle UP Saw a three-game point-scoring streak snapped in the win over the Canucks (his longest since last December), but that still adds up to a three-point week for a guy getting fourth-line minutes. 26 games in and he's once again at a career-high goal, assist and point-scoring pace.
Andre Burakovsky DOWN Appears to be fighting the puck a bit too much, second-guessing himself and passing up seemingly golden opportunities. None of that is going to translate into goals, and that's a big reason why he's still looking for his first tally since the season opener.
Paul Carey DOWN Got the call for the first of two Buffalo games last week, skated just under seven minutes and was on for both Sabres goals. Not ideal, and a little out of character for someone who has been a reliable, if not particularly flashy, call-up in the past.
Brett Connolly EVEN Connolly has seemingly done everything right except score this season, so it's a little strange that others are not scoring either and yet still get a jersey from night to night. Might be nice to see #10 back in the lineup on occasion.
Lars Eller DOWN One of just three players to appear in all four games this week and not post a single point, Eller is mired in a serious offensive drought. Like Burakovsky, at some point those strong underlying numbers (and they are generally really good) need to translate into at least a little bit of offense, and so far they just haven't.
Marcus Johansson UP Yet another strong week for Marcus, as he tied for the team lead in both goals (three) and points (five) over the last four games. Mixed in with that offensive outburst were the game-tying goal and overtime winner in Buffalo, which keeps him on pace with the League's leaders in the GWG department.
Evgeny Kuznetsov UP Might the old Kuznetsov be reemerging at last? We've been fooled once before, but this was a really good week for him, with five points (all assists, some of them of the spectacular variety) in the last four games. Still probably needs to shoot the puck a bit more, but with his playmaking skills it's hard to argue too much (although some may try) with the results.
T.J. Oshie EVEN Started out slow in his return to the lineup against the Bruins, but made up for lost time with a goal and an assist two nights later in Buffalo. On the flip side, he did have some struggles when it comes to those pesky underlying numbers, but (as with his linemate Backstrom) expect that ship to right itself in time.
Alex Ovechkin EVEN Snapped a seven-game goal drought - his longest, by the way, since an eight-game goalless streak back in December 2010 - with a power-play goal last night. That goes in the books as his 200th power-play goal of his career, part of a two-point night...that was juuuust enough to salvage the week for him.
Jakub Vrana UP In his first four games he seemed oh-so-close to scoring that first NHL goal, and in his fifth he made good, picking up a loose puck in front of the net for a power-play strike and the eventual game winner. Probably could have had two or three more goals, too, as he's displayed some nice hands and instincts in the offensive zone.
Justin Williams UP Players and coaches alike often talk about how a lengthy slump sometimes needs the flukiest, dirtiest of goals to be snapped, and that may have been the case with Williams' early strike against the Bruins Wednesday night. That goal was the first of two that night, and the second of four points on the week - and at last the production matches the still-golden possession stats lurking underneath.
Tom Wilson EVEN Put together an all-around strong game against the Canucks, including some masterful penalty killing, and was rewarded with an empty-net goal for his second of the season. Other than that, a fairly quiet week for Wilson (you know, big hit and resulting fracas and minor penalty against the Bruins aside).
Daniel Winnik UP Finished off a beautiful give-and-go with Beagle for his fourth goal of the season, double what he had in two more games with the Caps last season, and topped 60% in even-strength CF in three of four games (with the fourth one an admittedly abysmal outlier of just about 18% vs. the Bruins).
Defensemen Trend Notes
Matt Niskanen EVEN Missed his first game as a Cap when he sat out Friday night's game against the Sabres, but was back and apparently concussion-free on Sunday, which is good news for the Caps for sure. That said, a bit of an uneven week for Niskanen - he was on the ice for more goals-for than against, but got lit up a bit when it came to scoring chances against and had one of the team's lowest SCF% at even strength for the week.
Karl Alzner EVEN Amazingly the team's top goal-scoring blueliner finished the week as the only defenseman without a point in the four games. Not that big of a deal, though, since that's really not his role. On the other side of the ice? Mostly good things, as he and Carlson renewed their long-lost partnership and picked up pretty much where they left off, on for just one of the six goals the team gave up this week (a power-play strike by the Sabres).
John Carlson UP You know it's been a strange start to the season when Carlson, one of the team's top-scoring defensemen in recent years, has 0 goals to his name. Thankfully that all came to an end when he picked up a power-play tally Friday against the Sabres. Add that to an assist in two of the three other games this week, and that's a nice offensive haul for #74, Perhaps a return to his old D partner helped?
Taylor Chorney EVEN Saw action in two of the week's four games and... not much happened. That's a good thing, though, and he finished his two-game run with a positive even-strength CF% (bolstered by a team-leading 72% against the Sabres), with no goals against over that span.
Dmitry Orlov EVEN As always seems to be the case, Orlov was something of a mixed bag this week. On the positive side, he continued to rack up assists, with three on the week (and wasn't credited with an assist but did set up the whole play leading to Williams's goal on Sunday). On the negative? Two minor penalties against the Canucks, both seemingly a result of getting burned in the neutral zone... although granted, the mistakes that created those burn opportunities were at least partly on his teammates.
Brooks Orpik EVEN Another week, another reminder that the new approach to Orpik's usage and ice time appears to be paying off big time. Yes, he got walked on the Bruins' first goal Wednesday night, but that kind of thing has been much less frequent than it maybe has in the past. All told he continues to skate 18-20 minutes a night and was on for four goals this week - one against, three for. Worth noting that two of those three were empty netters... a nice sign that his coaches trust him to be out there at the end of a close game.
Nate Schmidt EVEN With guys like Orlov, Carlson and Niskanen on the roster, it's not much of a surprise that Schmidt gets overlooked when overtime rolls around - but with Niskanen out of the game Wednesday night, Schmidt got his chance to shine and did just that, setting up Backstrom (twice) for the eventual game-winner.
Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby UP Whether or not the three-goal Boston comeback Wednesday night was remotely on his shoulders (and no matter what he says, it didn't really seem to be), that was the one outlier in another very good week for the Caps' #1 guy. Three games, three wins, an even-strength save percentage of just under .950 and a shutout? That's old school Holts.
Philipp Grubauer UP Grubauer having a particularly strong first quarter is perhaps one of the more underrated stories of the season so far, and it continued Friday night with 27 saves on 28 shots against a scrappy Buffalo team. Consistency like this is what has him, and his save percentage, as one of the top backup goalies in the League right now.
Situational Trend Notes
Even Strength UP Even with a relatively successful week on the power play, the Caps still finished in the black when it came to even-strength scoring, topping opponents by an 11-4 margin (albeit with two empty-net goals mixed in). In fact, the League's second-best team in SA CF% lost the possession battle in just one out of the four games, and that was to the League's best SA CF team, the Bruins.
Power Play UP The Caps averaged a power-play goal per game over the past week, which is good because they're now 11-1-1 this year when they score with the extra man. More importantly, those four goals on 12 opportunities put them at a healthy 33.3% for the week - that'll do! Just... don't think about that shotless extended five-on-three Sunday night.
Penalty Kill EVEN Far too many chances for the penalty kill to practice, but for the most part the penalty killers were up to the task, nullifying 14 of 16 shorthanded chances. That's inched them ever closer to the top-10 in the League in the PK department.
Stats from,,, Hockey-Reference, and