Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs:
Another quiet week for Backstrom in terms of scoring, a week which included his first missed game since the 2015-16 season (and his absence was definitely felt). He did have a pretty spectacular outing defensively against the Oilers, though, as he became Connor McDavid’s shadow and kept the phenom to just one point. Not the easiest feat.
Picked up his second goal of the season, and added his second assist of the year, as well - which counts as a downright explosive offensive week for Beagle, who seemed to enjoy the Western Canadian air (even if his team struggled with it).
Miss u, Andre.
The lack of secondary scoring has hurt the Caps so far this season, and that includes guys like Chiasson. He’s done a decent job defensively, and no one’s expecting him to put up 20 goals this year, but he’s sitting at a single assist - picked up while killing a penalty - on the season, and eventually the Caps are going to need more.
Connolly played just over five minutes against Vancouver before getting rocked - a couple of times - and having to leave the game early with an “upper-body injury”.
Had what was easily one of his best games as a Capital in the win against the Oilers - even with the hat trick of penalties he took - and finished the week with the team’s third-highest high-danger and even-strength CF%.
Still injured, and was recently placed on LTIR... although hopefully that was just to allow for a roster move and he’ll be back soonish. The Caps can use all the depth they can get right now.
Last week we calmly suggested that Evgeny Kuznetsov just shoot the puck every now and then, and well... he did! 15 times, to be exact, with three of those finding the back of the net - including a beautiful end-to-end rush in Edmonton (he really likes playing there, apparently) that ended up being the game-winner in the Caps’ only victory this week.
For the second-straight week, Oshie’s offensive output was limited to just a single point - last week a goal, this week just a lone assist - and it seems his red-hot start to the season has cooled. Part of that could be due to a rotating cast of characters being used to fill Burakovsky’s vacated spot on the wing, but the Caps have struggled to score more often than not of late - the second line needs to start chipping in. So #OshieDown.
It is truly weird for Evgeny Kuznetsov to lead the team in goals over the course of a week; it’s perhaps weirder, despite his underrated passing ability, to see Ovechkin leading them in assists. Three of his four on the week were in one game, and it’d be nice to see that spread out a bit more, but he was a huge reason for the Caps’ comeback in Edmonton - a win that salvaged an otherwise sad road trip.
With all of the injuries to the forward group, it’s not surprising that the Caps made a Hershey call up. It is, however, fairly surprising that the next one up would be Anthony Peluso. And all he did in his limited - like, really limited - ice time was take a couple of minor penalties. So... good choice.
He’s put in some hard work so far this season and finally got rewarded with a spot up on the top line alongside Ovechkin and Kuznetsov - which almost immediately yielded fruit in the form of his first goal as a Capital. It was a big one in the game, as it began to turn the tide towards the Caps’ comeback, but sadly it was a one-time event. For now.
The path to get here wasn’t the smoothest - or the shortest - but after fourteen NHL games over three seasons, Stephenson finally picked up his first NHL goal. Sure, it was in a game that was already pretty much lost, but that hardly matters when it comes to a milestone like that. And what’s better is that even without the goal, it’s been a pretty strong call-up all around for Stephenson.
Vrana has yet to find the consistency to his game that his coaches are likely looking for, but then that pretty much goes for the entire Caps’ lineup right now. And when he’s on, he’s on - he picked up his third goal of the season in a losing effort against the Canucks, and finished the week with the third-best relCF% among the team’s forwards.
What exactly does Walker have to do to get into the lineup on a regular basis, particularly now that it’s been ravaged by injuries? Have to think he’s a better choice than someone like Peluso, especially in a back-to-back situation like this weekend, and yet he’s managed to get into just four of the first 12 games. Just... odd.
Challenged Erik Gudbranson to a battle in Vancouver (and pretty well got his butt handed to him, both in the fight and in terms of the resulting penalty minutes, one of which is weirder than the other) and had a couple of decent scoring chances this week... but other than that, not much going on for Wilson on this road trip.
It was something of a shaky start for Madison Bowey’s NHL career, but slowly but surely he’s settled in - and now he’s starting to find his offensive touch, picking up not only his first career NHL point this week but also his second and third. He’s still got some work to do in his own end, but getting a point-scoring boost from the blueline is nothing to sneeze at.
Added another two assists to his resume, which now gives him an impressive seven through the first twelve games. He also continues to rack up huge minutes in the absence of Matt Niskanen... which is both good and bad. Mostly bad, and not (entirely) because of Carlson’s performance. Carlson’s not 22 anymore, and while he’s doing relatively okay with the added responsibility so far, it’s not sustainable.
Only Connolly put up a worse CF% and at even strength than Chorney this week, and he only played about five minutes. He hasn’t gotten burned too often overall - at least not on the scoresheet - but that’s been the case for most of the season, and largely due to the fact that he (and whoever else has been in the team’s third defensive pair) has been pretty well sheltered. Still... not ideal.
No points this week for Djoos, but strong work at even strength again by the rookie and he was on the ice for just one goal against this week. All in all, he’s settling in just fine.
The good? Orlov has resumed his place atop the team leaderboard when it comes to your basic possession stats, because... well, he’s good at getting and hanging onto the puck. The bad? Once he has the puck he’s still not doing a whole lot with it, at least in terms of actual points on the scoreboard, and is still sitting at one assist on the season. The fact that he’s only had more than one shot actually on net in a game three times this season isn’t helping, although two of those three were this week. So maybe things are looking up?
Orpik was much better last season when used in a reduced role (and when used alongside Nate Schmidt, but that wound’s still a bit too fresh); with Niskanen out, he’s averaging the second-most ice time behind only Carlson, and perhaps it’s starting to show, as he had a couple of rough runs against Vancouver and Edmonton.
His overall stats this season look good, but Holtby has struggled at times with consistency, and that showed in a particularly horrific outing in Vancouver in which he didn’t seem to know where the puck was at all and had to be yanked after giving up five goals on 22 shots. He rebounded nicely in Edmonton, though, giving up the first two goals of the game but looking much better in the process and holding down the fort to allow his team to get back into it.
Speaking of rebounding nicely, Grubauer gave up a power-play goal in relief of Holtby against the Canucks, and another two at even strength in Calgary, but he looked much better than he has in the last few outings and putting up a nice-looking save percentage of .947 for the week at even strength.
The Caps were once again outshot and outscored at evens this week; not by huge margins in either department, but they were out-attempted 149 to 132 for a CF% of just under 47%. Not surprising, considering that the team was missing their best center for one of the games and has been without their top blueliner for much longer, but still.
What’s worse... only drawing five power plays through three games, or not scoring on a single one of them? Tough call.
Either answer to the question above gets even worse when you consider that the Caps were shorthanded 12 times this week and gave up three power-play goals. It did get better as the week went on, as all three PPGs loss in Vancouver, so... that’s something. Perhaps.