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Capital Ups and Downs, Week 10 & 11: Holiday Road

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

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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

Forwards Trend Notes
Nicklas Backstrom UP Added to his team-leading point total with a four-point week, including two points on the reinvigorated power play. And just three away from 500 assists... the milestone watch begins.
Jay Beagle EVEN Beagle was the only forward to play in all five games over the last two weeks and not register a point, which is (somewhat surprisingly) a bit rare for him these days. He's doing his job defensively, though, and was part of a penalty-killing unit that killed off 14 of 15 opportunities (and wasn't on the ice for the one power-play goal they gave up).
Andre Burakovsky UP Seems reinvigorated after being asked to hit the "reset" button and watch from the pressbox for three games, and put up a multipoint game in his return to the lineup - including his first goal since October.
Brett Connolly UP Connolly's only played in about half of the team's games so far this season, but when he's been in the lineup, he's done some good things at both ends of the rink. Only Vrana had a better even-strength CF% over the last two weeks than Connolly's 63.8, and his goal against the Islanders (in a season-low 7:05 of ice time no less) was his second in his last seven games of action.
Lars Eller UP The team's new-look third line, with Eller as its center, has already made an impact, and it's helped to get him off the schneid, to boot. Eller picked up a goal and two assists in the last five games, the centerpiece of which was his game against the Flyers where he factored into both Caps' goals.
Marcus Johansson UP The goals aren't going in the net at quite the same rate they did early in the year, but they're still going in. Johansson's cherry-on-the-sundae goal against the Lightning snapped a five-game goalless drought but goes in the books as his 13th of the season. With 50 games remaining, Johansson is just seven goals shy of his career high... think he tops it?
Evgeny Kuznetsov EVEN It's somewhat concerning that a year after his first 20-goal campaign, Kuznetsov has just three goals through 32 games (and hasn't scored in the last 13). He's finally finding a way to contribute regularly, though, and is looking more like his old self of late, with eight points in his last nine games.
T.J. Oshie EVEN Scored a big game-tying goal against the 'Canes - and followed it up with the shootout winner - but otherwise has been quiet lately, and hasn't quite found the scoring touch he had before missing a few weeks with that upper-body injury.
Alex Ovechkin EVEN There's been a lot of talk, from us and others, about whether Ovechkin is slowing down; he may very well be, but over the last handful of games he's been scoring a bit more with three points (two goals, one assist). Whether or not he's "back" or not remains to be seen, but in the meantime the offense is nice.
Zach Sanford EVEN Three games up, two in the pressbox and a little under ten minutes of not much... perhaps a wee bit more time in Hershey is needed for the rookie.
Jakub Vrana UP No one had a higher relative CF at even strength than Vrana, who continues to show his abilities when it comes to possessing the puck and doing good things with it (as evidenced by his two assists in the last five games).
Justin Williams EVEN Another member of the Caps' forward squad who appears to be rejuvenated, Williams added to his point total with two goals and an assist in the last five games. Oddly enough, he's struggling possession-wise - only Sanford had a lower even-strength CF among forwards over that span.
Tom Wilson UP No one expects Wilson to start putting up points at a Backstrom-esque pace, but he's starting to chip in a bit, with a goal and his assist in his last six games. Add in some stellar penalty-killing work, an all-around strong effort in one of his better games of the year against the Flyers, and an even-strength CF just under 54% for the last five games, and it's been a pretty good stretch for #43.
Daniel Winnik EVEN Fairly quiet couple of weeks for Winnik, who played in four of the five games with no points but some decent defensive efforts - would probably like to see opponents' scoring chances down a bit (his SCF% at even strength was fourth-lowest among all Caps forwards), but he wasn't on for any goals against this week.
Defensemen Trend Notes
Matt Niskanen UP It took him about a third of the season to get on the scoresheet, but when he breaks a goal-scoring slump he breaks it big time, with the eventual game-winning and game-icing goals against the Islanders. Those two goals were part of a four-point, five-game stretch for Niskanen, tied for second-most on the team over that span.
Karl Alzner EVEN Picked up an assist in the final game before the holiday break, snapping a 22-game pointless streak - not that Alzner's known for being an offensive defenseman or anything, but his four points in the first nine games of the season set expectations pretty high.
John Carlson UP After a slow start to the season, no one has been hotter of late than John Carlson, witha team-leading five points in his last five games (a stretch that includes his first two-goal game since 2014) and nine points in his last ten. Things haven't been as strong on the other side of the puck; Carlson's 42.6% even-strength CF was the lowest on the team over the last two weeks. Still, nice to see his scoring touch return.
Taylor Chorney EVEN Chorney's had to cool his jets as a healthy scratch for most of the season, and he's handled it admirably, but there wasn't much about his return to the lineup against the Lightning Friday night that would suggest he's a better option than Schmidt at the moment. He and partner Orpik were both on the ice for a team-leading four scoring changes-against at even strength (and Chorney skated about three minutes less than Orpik).
Dmitry Orlov UP Was held off the scoresheet in just one of the last five games, with an assist in each of the other four while posting an impressive 57.1 CF% at even strength. He now has seven points in his last nine games - just another Caps' defenseman lighting it up on a regular basis, no bigs.
Brooks Orpik EVEN Another solid week for Orpik in his own end; oddly enough the one blip was when Schmidt came out of the lineup in favor of Chorney. Interesting.
Nate Schmidt EVEN No points over the past five games, but posted the highest even-strength CF/60 and CF%, and lowest CA/60, of any Caps' defenseman during that span. It's a shame that he's having such a great season and yet is also the "obvious" choice to come out of the lineup as a healthy scratch whenever the team needs a blueliner to sit.
Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby UP Stopped 108 of the 114 shots he faced in his four games this week, a span of games which included a shutout and just one regulation loss. More and more Holtby is looking like his Vezina-winning self of a season ago.
Philipp Grubauer UP Last time the team was in Raleigh, they pretty much left Grubauer out to dry; both he and the team got to make up for that abysmal outing with a slightly better effort (and a shootout win) this time around. Grubauer's now up to 5-1-1 on the season, with an impressive save percentage of .934.
Situational Trend Notes
Even Strength UP The Caps out-attempted their opponents 243 to 221 over the last two weeks at five on five (a CF% of 52.4, sixth-best in the League over that span), and outscored them 10-7. That'll do.
Power Play UP Only Calgary and Columbus (35%) had a better power-play rate than the Caps' 33.3% over the last two weeks; of course, the Caps only drew 12 penalties in five games (tied for third-fewest in that span) but scored four times to bring their season rate up to a stout 19%. Still not back to its former glory, but they're in the top half of the League now - and climbing.
Penalty Kill UP The good news? The Caps killed off all but one of their 15 times shorthanded in the last five games, bringing their PK up to 84.8%, sixth-best in the League. The better news? They gave opponents an average of just three power-play opportunities per game, and took just 17 minors total.
Stats from,,, Hockey-Reference, and