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Capital Ups and Downs, Week 8 & 9: Home Sweet Home

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Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs

NHL: New York Rangers at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs:

Goal drought? What goal drought? All of a sudden Backstrom’s scoring in bunches... and by bunches we mean, well, goals in two straight. Still, it’s nice to see him snap out of the slump while continuing to pick up his usual slew of assists; he racked up six points in the last five games, and led the team in scoring-chance differential at even strength (+13) over that span. In other words, back to his old self again.

We hope.

Offensively, it was a good week for Beagle, as he picked up an assist and then scored a goal roughly 15 seconds into the Caps’ eventual win over the Rangers Friday night. On the other side of the puck, however, not so much - it’s not surprising to see the other team get more shots on net with Beagle on the ice considering his defensive role, but over the last five games he was on for 80 shot attempts at even strength alone compared to just 34 in the other direction - and led the team in scoring-chances against with 20. Not great.

Hard not to root for a kid making his NHL debut six years after being drafted, and it was fun to see Boyd live out his dream... but we’re happy to have him back in Hershey after his two-game stint.

After a long stretch of time with no news about Burakovsky, things ramped up pretty quickly over the last week - he went from skating to practicing to returning to the lineup on Friday. Great news for him and the team, and his return - while lacking on the scoresheet - drew positive marks from his coach. Welcome back, Andre.

Picked up his fourth goal of the season to help the Caps jump out to a quick lead against the Blue Jackets, and then got into his first fight (!) as a Capital in a feisty win over the Sharks two nights later.

Barry Trotz’s patented benching-to-kickstart-scoring method seems to have worked again, as Connolly is suddenly red hot. After sitting out the loss to the Kings, he returned and immediately made an impact - like immediately immediately, as he scored the opening tally against Columbus just 1:03 into the first. He followed up that quick-start performance with goals against the Sharks and Blackhawks, bringing his season total up to five goals in 21 games and putting him on pace to crush last year’s career-high 15.

Not the best of weeks for Eller as far as sheer numbers go, as he picked up just one assist and un-Eller-like possession stats (although some of that was a product of his team being ahead, and the score-adjusted numbers look a little better).

With Burakovsky returning and the team playing as well as they have been (overall), something had to give - and unfortunately that something was Graovac, who found himself on waivers and then headed back to Hershey at the end of last week.

Kuznetsov continues to be en fuego, especially in the goal-scoring department; in fact, no one scored more goals for the Caps than #92, who picked up four of them - and one assist - over the last two weeks, including both goals in the team’s only loss to LA.

Just an assist for Oshie over the last two weeks, but that’s the less important story about that particular stretch of time, as he’s missed the last two games - and seems poised to miss a third - after suffering an “upper-body injury” at the hands, or more precisely the rear end, of Joe Thornton. Good news is that he’s skating and is still listed as day-to-day; the team just doesn’t have the same zip without him in the lineup, wins or not.

We’re running out of ways to describe just how good Alex Ovechkin is and how well he’s performed this season in particular. So if three goals and five assists in his last five games doesn’t do it for you, just... watch this:

With his goal against the Sharks last Monday, Smith-Pelly now has four on the season - aka the same number of goals he put up in 23 more games with the Devils last year, and a little less than a third of the way to his career high (and just under halfway to his career-best point total).

Snapped a nine-game pointless drought with an assist against the Rangers, but he continues to run a bit cold since his early hot streak, and only Beagle had a worse CF% at even strength over the last two weeks than Stephenson.

Scored just one goal in the last five games (a nail-in-the-coffin power-play strike against the Sharks), but he generated plenty of offensive chances that just weren’t able to find the back of the net. The team’s been getting plenty of support from the rest of the lineup lately (and a ton of scoring from the top line in particular), so he’s got time to regain his scoring touch.

You could say that just playing alongside all-world talents like Ovechkin and Backstrom will boost the scoring of just about anyone, but experience tells us that’s simply not the case. So it’s darned impressive to see what Wilson has managed to do since getting promoted to the top line. That includes three goals and four assists over his last five games - trailing only Ovechkin for the team’s top scoring mark over that span - and his first career four-point game. With 52 games remaining, he’s now just two goals and eight points away from matching career-highs in both areas... place your bets now as to whether either of those personal bests last much longer.

No points, three minor penalties and on for two goals-against equals not the best of five-game stretches for the young blueliner.

Another four assists for Carlson has him up to 22 points on the season, which (of course) leads Caps’ blueliners and is tied for fourth-most among all NHL defensemen. He also was on for a ton of goals in the right direction... although he did get run around a bit by the Kings and ‘Hawks.

Niskanen’s back, Djoos is back, Bowey continues to develop... that leaves Chorney as the odd man out on the blueline. Which to be honest is exactly as it should be.

Before getting hurt back on November 14, Djoos had been mired in a 10-game pointless streak... a streak which continued for three more games before he shook off the donut with an assist against the Blackhawks last week. He also got dinged for several goals-against over the last five games, including both Chicago goals. And yet he still managed to finish this latest stretch with the team’s best CF% at even strength (albeit in somewhat sheltered minutes), which is not nothing for the rookie.

Up until his goal against the Rangers Friday night, Niskanen hadn’t scored since way back on April 2, snapping a personal 19-game goalless streak. He picked a heck of a great time to break that streak, though, as that goal helped salvage a win that almost wasn’t against a Metro Division rival.

Was on for more goals for than against, and was at worst even in every game over the past two weeks. Add in another four assists for Orlov and this was another strong set of games for #9.

No Caps’ defenseman finished with a worse even-strength CF% than Orpik’s 38.6% over the last five games - but he was just about even when it came to high-danger chances, and he was on the ice for for six goals by his own team compared to three for opponents (including one on which he picked up an assist). Those three minor penalties, though...

Only four goalies gave up fewer goals than Holtby this week (min. 100 shots faced), and he was a huge reason why the team held on in at least two of the games over that span. Still searching for that elusive first shutout of the season, though... obviously as long as the team keeps winning, that matters very little, but it’d be nice to see him get to hand out a good old-fashioned whitewashing to someone.

Well, look who is suddenly on a winning streak! He’s now won his last two starts, turning aside 49 of the 51 shots he faced in the process, and getting his save percentage up close to .900 on the year. It’s also nice to see the team start to put up some goals in front of him (and taking a lead early to let him settle in), but Gru’s been great all on his own and is finally getting rewarded.

The Caps continue to be outshot at evens on a fairly regular basis, but now that they’ve started taking the lead - and even expanding on it - the story changes a bit. On the surface, the team’s 46.89 CF% over the last five games is not great; but in score-adjusted terms, it’s just a shade under 50%. Most importantly (at least when it comes to immediate results)? They outscored opponents 15-9 at five-on-five over the past two weeks.

Four goals on 17 opportunities shakes out to a fairly respectable 23.5% over the last five games. Again, it’s a factor in, but not a driving force behind, their success, which is the way it should be. That said, they gave up another shorthanded goal in their win over Columbus, which brings their season total up to five - that’s two more than their entire total from last season, and matches their highest season total from the entire Trotz era. And it’s only Game #30. Not ideal.

The team went 10-for-10 over their last five games, which is extremely good (as is the fact that they only had 10 power plays to kill off over that span).

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