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Capital Ups and Downs, Week 23: Best of Times, Worst of Times

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

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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

Goalies Trend Notes
Braden Holtby Was very good in the week's first two games, giving up just one goal to the Hurricanes and one more to the Predators... and then laid an absolute egg in the absolute last place you want him to do so when he gave up five goals to the Penguins Sunday night. It's great that he's showing some signs of improvement (giving up just one goal in three of your last five games is nothing to sneeze at) but the inconsistency still lingers.
Philipp Grubauer Came in to relieve Holtby for the sixth time this season and gave up one goal on the five shots he faced. Might not be a bad idea to get him into a couple of games, should the big guy ahead of him need time to get his shi-... er, his stuff together.
Karl Alzner Fairly quiet week for Alzner overall. He was on the ice for just two goals this week (both in the Predators game, one for and one against), saw more shots go towards the opponents' net than his own, and blocked a handful of shots as per usual.
John Carlson
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Hurry back, John.
Taylor Chorney Was solid against the Hurricanes, not so much against the Preds, and in the pressbox for the Penguins. Such is the life for Chorney these days.
Matt Niskanen Led the team in ice time this week with an average of close to 26 minutes a night, and continues to be a calming presence on a blueline that admittedly has been a little adventurous of late. That said, he's better suited for a second D pair role, and one imagines he'll be as glad as any of us to see Carlson get back in the lineup.
Dmitry Orlov
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Picked up a couple of assists - one against Nashville and another against the Pens - but was on the ice for four of Pittsburgh's goals on Saturday night and got called out (albeit not by name) for a lack of urgency on one of them. In fact, of the 16 goals scored this week, by the Caps and their opponents, Orlov was on the ice for 12 of them. That's not a coincidence. Dude makes things happen... they're just not always good things.
Brooks Orpik Orpik can be a tricky one to judge, because - as he himself noted - the stats don't always paint the whole picture. Consider the fact that, like Orlov, he had a front seat to a slew of Penguins' goals Sunday night and yet ended up with the second-highest CF% at even strength of any Caps' defenseman; or the fact that he had abysmal underlying stats for the win against the Predators yet wasn't on for any goals-against. Enigma.
Nate Schmidt Schmidt has proven that he's got some serious skating ability and a bit of an offensive upside to his game; sadly we haven't really gotten to see much of that of late, as he hasn't scored a goal in almost three months and has just a handful of assists over that span. His main role isn't to provide offense, but with the team struggling to score goals lately, it couldn't hurt to get a bit more from the blueliners capable of chipping in.
Mike Weber
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Aside from a few blips here and there, Weber hasn't had a ton of noticeable moments in his time as a Cap. That changed in his lone appearance this week, when he made sure to have as many as possible. First it was his bad pinch that led to the Penguins' first goal, followed by a roughing double minor in the second period, and then rounded out by a bad hit from behind that sent him off for five + ten (and led to Pittsburgh's sixth goal of the game). He's just not mobile enough to play against quick teams like the Penguins, and it showed.
Nicklas Backstrom
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For most players, getting nine points in their last 15 games wouldn't be a concern. Nicklas Backstrom is not most players, though, and it's becoming a big concern, as is the fact that his even-strength scoring has been practically nonexistent. In fact, he's got just four points at even strength over his last 17 games and didn't add to that total - or his point total in general - this week, as he held scoreless in all three games. As always, the underlying numbers are strong, but at some point those shots need to become goals.
Jay Beagle Top-line Beagle didn't exactly jumpstart the production from the team's two best players (and if you thought it would, I have some bad news for you about Santa Claus) but he did bring a bit of a workmanlike ethic to the trio and even got some chances of his own out of the deal. Add in a sweet breakout pass Sunday night for an assist and not a bad week overall for Beagle.
Andre Burakovsky Burakovsky cashed in on one of Kuznetsov's gorgeous passes Friday night, an early third-period goal which basically was the nail in the coffin for the Predators. He followed that up with a nifty game-tying goal against the Penguins (remember when that game was tied?)... and then proceeded to get run around by Pittsburgh's fourth (?) line. Still, he continues to be one of the team's more consistent and effective forwards.
Jason Chimera Chimera continues to run hot and cold, and this was something of a "hot" week for him, with a smart play to set up the Caps' first goal against the Hurricanes and a goal against the Penguins that showed he was capable of really using his head. So to speak.
Stanislav Galiev So... how's the view from up above, Stan?
Marcus Johansson Johansson has been producing at a pretty consistent rate for most of the season, but lately that hasn't been the case; he has just two assists (one at even strength, one on the power play) in the last three weeks. There are probably a few factors going into that, as with the rest of the team's sudden lack of offense, but one of those is probably the same one that's plagued him over the course of his career: he's not shooting the puck enough. Just two shots on goal this week - both against the Penguins - isn't going to cut it.
Evgeny Kuznetsov
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Just marvel at the magic of those three assists Thursday night and appreciate the fact that we are increasingly spoiled to get to watch him play nightly.
Michael Latta That fourth line is becoming increasingly tough to break into... but hopefully Latta gets another look at some point.
T.J. Oshie Folks were raving about Kuznetsov's trademark behind-the-net pass on Friday (and rightly so), but don't overlook the ability of Oshie to sneak in and get that shot off so fast the cameras could barely catch it. That was quite a snipe for his 22nd of the season, a new career high.
Alex Ovechkin What exactly is going on with Alex Ovechkin? Is it the fact that Backstrom is slumping, or is he causing Backstrom to slump? Is he injured or just pacing himself for when the games matter? He's shown signs of being his old self over the last week, with the overtime winner against Carolina and a couple of big hits in Pittsburgh, but something's still not quite right.
Mike Richards He was extra feisty in Pittsburgh Sunday night, no doubt a remnant of his Flyer days, and put in some hefty shorthanded work (although he did get nicked for a couple of power-play goals against). Just continues to do the little things, including winning four of the five draws he took against Sidney Crosby (and 18 of his 30 overall).
Justin Williams
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Ever wonder why the line that Justin Williams is on is usually one of the better lines in each game? Me, neither. Add another goal (a case of him being in the right place at the right time) and assist (a case of Chimera doing the same) to what continues to be an impressive season.
Tom Wilson Hard to see the dip in the stats for the fourth line and not trace it back to the addition of Wilson, even if it's not all on him. He was pretty effective against the Penguins, though, and was credited with six hits (which would be "bad" if his line didn't dominate possession-wise in that game, as well).
Daniel Winnik Winnik picked up his first goal as a Cap against the Predators, and not being content to rest on that one, added a second later in the game. His possession numbers took a big hit this week, but the guy had a two-goal game (yes, we know, one more than Brooks Laich had this year, blah blah blah) - that's worthy of an up arrow any day.

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