Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs:
Was held off the scoresheet in the first two games of this stretch and went pointless again in the last two games, and - coincidence or not - three of those four games were losses for the Caps. The team just plays better when it’s top guys are going, as is to be expected. Outside of those mini slumps, however, he picked up a couple of goals and an assist - including a tally to jumpstart the comeback against the Ducks - and continues to inch closer to his more expected point-per-game pace.
Just a couple of secondary helpers for Beagle on the scoresheet this week, but that’s not bad for someone who isn’t really expected nor relied upon for steady offense. He also saw his possession numbers bounce up a bit over the previous two weeks (although still sub-50% in even-strength CF, which isn’t ideal) - and he continues to dominate in the faceoff circle, with an overall success rate of 58.8%, good enough for fourth in the League (min 200 draws).
It took him a couple of games to get his timing back after missing so much time with his thumb injury, but he seems to be finding it now, and it was certainly on full display in the win against Dallas last week. Not only did he pick up just his fourth two-goal and second three-point game of his career, but he earned his first-ever overtime winner to give the Caps a rare W in Big D.
If you’re going to snap a five-game pointless streak, might as well do so with your first two-goal game since 2013 - and why not make one of them an unassisted shorthanded goal, just for extra bonus points? Not a bad move (although ultimately not enough to keep him completely away from healthy scratch territory...might help if he hadn’t also put up the lowest ES CF% among forwards over the last seven games).
One of the nice things about the Caps’ recent hot streak - and one of the reasons why it was a hot streak to begin with - is that the team has been able to distribute the offense throughout the lineup. No one on the team had more than two goals over the last seven games, but eight different players scored exactly two goals, including Connolly, who continues to provide consistent offense from the third line.
He wasn’t quite as productive as his linemates this week, but a pair of assists (to go with his usual pair of minor penalties) keeps Eller clicking along at a relatively decent pace, and he was one of five Caps forwards to be on the positive side of 50% (52.05%, to be exact) in even-strength CF%.
Kuznetsov continues to pace the team in scoring, picking up seven points in the last seven games (two goals and five assists) to extend his season total to 38 points. It will - for now, at least - keep us from being too concerned about the fact that he was the only forward to be on the ice for more than 100 shot attempts by opponents at even strength over the last seven games, and that only Djoos (69) and Carlson (85) saw more opponents’ scoring chances than Kuznetsov’s 68 over that span.
He needed just one warm-up game back in the lineup before he was back on the scoresheet, opening the scoring with a nifty deflection in the eventual overtime loss to Arizona over the weekend. One would imagine that he’ll still need a bit of time to get back to his high-scoring ways, but one goal in his first three games back is a good start.
Added another two goals and two assists to his consistently sparkling production, continuing to volley back and forth with Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov for the League’s goal-scoring lead. And ho-hum, just another overtime-winning goal for his resume. Whatevs.
Strange week for Smith-Pelly, as he picked up his fifth goal of the season - a nice but relatively meaningless empty-netter in the win over Colorado but was otherwise quiet and found himself a healthy scratch in two of the seven games overall. One would imagine that, with a full lineup once again, he will be one of a few players to rotate onto pressbox duty on a fairly regular basis. Hopefully not too regular, though, because he brings a nice amount of fiestiness to the team when he gets a jersey.
Picked up an assist against the Islanders and then another one against Colorado to extend his point streak to three... and then just went silent again, held off the scoresheet for the last five games. His deployment has been a bit confusing, as one would think his recent lack of production (those three points in three games were his only offense in a 17-game span) would put him atop the list for at least a game or two watching the game from the stands... but we’ll see if he can snap himself out of yet another slump first.
With his goal against the Bruins last week, Vrana officially has his first 10-goal season and continues to thrive on a line with Kuznetsov and Oshie (and almost got into his first-ever fight, which.... nope).
Whatever offensive magic was being generated by Top-Line Tom in games past hasn’t exactly been present over the last seven games, as he’s picked up just one assist over that span (although it’s hard to say that he’s holding his linemates back, since no one had a better CF% at even strength than Wilson in the last two weeks). It was also a particularly scrappy stretch of games in which he racked up a whopping 23 penalty minutes, mostly in defense of teammates.
Bit of a rough week for Bowey, as opponents outshot the Caps 56-24 when he was on the ice; that he didn’t see many goals against is a testament to strong goaltending as much as anything. He did pick up another couple of assists, but continues to look for his first goal in the NHL - and could stand to shoot the puck a bit more in the meantime, with just five shots total in the last seven games.
Another big stretch of games offensively for Carlson, who picked up a goal and four assists over the last two weeks to stay among the League’s top-scoring blueliners.
Not much going on for Chorney over the last two weeks, as a full and healthy complement of defensemen once again meant he was out for all but one game as the team’s seventh blueliner. Which, again, is totally fine.
Interestingly enough, while Djoos and Bowey have started most games as a defensive pair, they’ve had drastically different results; while Bowey has seen the puck go the wrong way much of the time, Djoos stuck closer to that coveted 50% mark across the board. Like Bowey, he picked up a pair of assists over the last two weeks - nice to see him producing every couple of games after experiencing a lengthy drought earlier this season.
Scored a goal against the Avalanche and then added a pair of assists two nights later in the win over the Bruins, wrapping up a stretch of ten games in which he accumulated an impressive eight points. Nothing doing since, but as long as he keeps patrolling the blueline the way he can, a little drought here and there is no big deal.
Just... good god, Dmitry.
Here’s a fun stat for you: -46. That’s the discrepancy between opponents’ shots - not just towards the net but right smack on goal - and the Caps’ shots when Orpik was on the ice over the last seven games (all strengths). Oof.
He got the hook after giving up three goals on 12 shots against the Islanders a couple of weeks ago, and gave up another three on just nine shots in the opening frame in Vegas over the weekend - which would account for his un-Holtby-esque save percentage of .904 over the last seven games. Still, it was a much better .917 at even strength, and he held off a bunch of high-flying teams over that stretch, particularly in overtime. He also was a huge reason why that loss in Vegas wasn’t more lopsided than 3-0.
No wins over the last seven for Grubauer, but he came in and stopped the bleeding against the Islanders and was hung out to dry by his teammates in the overtime loss to the ‘Yotes Friday night. Not a fan of that second Arizona goal, but overall another solid stretch for the team’s backup.
They still can’t seem to consistently tilt the rink against opponents when it comes to shot attempts, but the Caps did keep it close this week - and outscored teams 18-14 at evens, which ultimately is what counts... at least in the short term.
A team with this kind of firepower should always be hovering around that 20% effectiveness with the extra man... so yeah, 6.3% (one for 16) is just not going to cut it.
Ditto on that ol’ PK, which had been clicking along at near perfection for a couple of weeks before the bottom dropped out over the last seven games. Limiting penalties to about three per game is good, as is the shorthanded goal they picked up against Boston, but ceding five goals on those 21 total chances is also not going to cut it. Rough run for those “special” teams.
Stats via Corsica, Natural Stat Trick, HockeyViz and NHL.com