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Capital Ups and Downs, Week 4: Defying the Odds

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Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs

NHL: Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs:

Two games, no points, and a Corsi-For percentage of just 40 at five-on-five are pretty un-Backstrom-like numbers. In fact, his five-game pointless drought is his longest since an equally unproductive stretch in November of 2013. Very un-Backstrom-like indeed...

Picked up a secondary helper against the Isles and wasn’t on the ice for a single goal-against, including more than five minutes of spotless penalty-killing duty. However, some pretty bleak five-on-five shot metrics (34.3% CF) underlie that good fortune.

The Caps could use all the help they can get, so the sooner Burakovsky can return, the better.

Scored his first goal of the season (mere hours after we reverse-jinxed it!), but barely cleared the 40 percent mark in on-ice five-on-five shot attempts. The Caps need more from their bottom-six forwards, Chiasson very much included.

Not quite ready to return, but should be able to help when he does, given the lack of depth in the lineup.

The hottest Washington Capital is... Lars Eller? With another two goals and two assists this week (the Caps scored just seven times, total), Eller has three goals and three assists in his last four games, and is the team’s leading scorer since October 14 (seven points in eight games) which, if we’re being honest, says more about the Caps right now than Eller.

Don’t lie - you’ve already forgotten about Graovac, haven’t you?

Snapped a two-game scoreless spell with a helper in Beantown, and Kuznetsov’s shot metrics have been even worse of late, posting a team-worst 26.9 Corsi-For percentage against the Isles and bumping it all the way up to 37.0 against the B’s. Given his playmaking and finishing abilities, Kuznetsov can probably break-even in five-on-five goal differential at somewhere south of fifty-percent (he’s currently at 52% Goals-For, despite a 43.4% CF for the season, a split that’s unlikely to be sustainable)... but the Caps sure hope for more than “break-even” for Kuznetsov.

Welcome back, Liam? Welcome back, Liam.

Pointless on the week and registering just one point (an assist) in his last half-dozen games, Oshie has also gone nine games without an even-strength goal and has just two of those on the season after potting 25 a year ago. This is what regression looks like - a drop in individual five-on-five shooting percentage from 26 percent in 2016-17 to 11 percent this year, per Corsica.

Lit the lamp for the first time in six games on Saturday night, but was completely underwater in five-on-five shot attempts, posting a 33.3 CF% in each of the week’s two games, as the Caps managed just 19 shot attempts with Ovi on the ice at fives while their opponents launched 38 pucks towards Braden Holtby. That’s not good. At all. Given the ongoing struggles of the Caps’ top-six forwards (specifically the two pairs of star players), perhaps it’s time to shake things up a bit.

We hardly knew ye, A.P.

Let’s be honest - this guy shouldn’t be anywhere near the top six of a team with serious ambition.

With three assists this week and four points in five games this season, Stephenson is looking a bit like an NHLer (to include relatively good underlying numbers... with an emphasis on “relatively”).

Decent enough shot metrics for the week didn’t translate into any points for Vrana, who can look like a star in the making one shift and an AHLer the next (which is not to be unexpected for a player of his experience).

Was fine against New York and scratched against Boston, which has more or less how his season has trended thus far.

Wilson’s first career two-goal (regular season) game was enough to provide the Caps with a road victory over the Bruins, one game after providing the primary assist on Lars Eller’s second goal, giving him primary points on consecutive game-winning goals in a two-win week. That’ll earn ya an up arrow (even with that penalty near the end of Saturday night’s game).

Bowey had an assist against the Isles and now has four points in his last five games as he gets more and more comfortable at the NHL level. Even more encouraging, he was one of just two Caps to post a positive on-ice shot attempt differential in Boston (Vrana), after getting smoked (like just about all of his teammates) against New York.

Carlson was on the ice for four of the Caps’ opponents’ five goals this week. But that’s, in part, because he’s damn-near always on the ice, averaging 28:23 per game on the week. (Maybe it’s time to reduce his power-play time. Just a thought.) He did manage a pair of even-strength assists, but he’s been struggling alongside Brooks Orpik (while performing quite well with Christian Djoos, albeit typically in a somewhat different role). Basically, there’s an awful lot going on with the free-agent-to-be

Sound the Chorn Horn! The Caps’ depth defenseman got the party started against the Islanders with his first of the year and that’s about it. The Caps simply aren’t a good team when Taylor Chorney is on the ice, yielding nearly 57 percent of the games’ five-on-five shot attempts, a stat that hasn’t caught up to the team... yet.

Not much to report for the young rearguard, who remains the only Caps blueliner with more than a single goal on the season (and the only one other than Chorney to have scored at all, amazingly).

Orlov isn’t really passing the eye test right now, but his shot metrics are among the best on the team and he’s paired nicely with Bowey (only Carlson and Djoos have a better CF percentage as a duo among Caps pairs with 50 minutes or more together), so... trust the process?

A year ago, Orpik was a strong - good, even - third-pairing defenseman for the Caps. This year, he’s struggled in a top-four role, playing tough minutes and a lot of them. This should surprise no one, and really isn’t a knock on Orpik - you simply can’t increase an already limited 37-year-old defenseman’s workload by nearly five minutes per night, largely against top competition, and expect the previously positive results to scale up along with it. Orpik’s head and heart are plenty willing... but the body’s just not able.

Two games, two wins and a .929 save percentage (.966 at five-on-five) for a goalie who has basically been under siege in an unfamiliar way since opening night - Holtby’s shot attempts faced, per sixty, over the last four seasons has gone from 52.7 to 54.0 to 53.0 to 60.1 this year, meaning that

With back-to-backs to start the week, we’ll see if Grubauer can build off a great start in Calgary and get his season back on track.

The Caps managed just 40.1 percent of the five-on-five shot attempts in their two games this week (both game were right around that percentage), but outscored their two opponents 7-2. This is where we can be retrospectively appreciative and prospectively concerned.

Nine games without a five-on-four goal, six games without a power-play tally of any kind, and 0-for-6 with the extra man this week. What’s the deal? Well, a drop in shot-attempt rate from 107.6 and 106.5 over the last two seasons to 94.6 this year ain’t helping. But this unit is too talented to be kept down for long... right? RIGHT?!

Same story, different special teams unit. Three power-play goals-against in eight times shorthanded is bad, but what’s worse is the Caps’ four-on-five shots-against rate - a year ago, they yielded just 82.4, a number which has spiked to 104.3 this year. That’s an increase of nearly 27 percent! No wonder this group is getting torched.

Stats via Corsica, Natural Stat Trick, HockeyViz and NHL.com