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Capital Ups and Downs: Free Hockey

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Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs

NHL: NOV 16 Capitals at Bruins Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Wow, how are we already a quarter of the way through the season? The Capitals played four games last week, two at home and two away, and three of those games went to a shootout. Clearly, the Caps just wanted to give everyone watching as much bonus hockey as possible. How did each player fare in these overtime adventures? Let’s take a look...

Nicklas Backstrom had a bit of a rough week. He was held off the score sheet completely through the first two games last week, and only tallied one assist each in the final two. He also had six giveaways, which felt a bit uncharacteristic. A bright spot? He went 55.17% at the faceoff dot.

Verdict: Dropping

Welcome back, Travis Boyd! With injuries to both Dowd and Hagelin, Boyd was called up from Hershey for Saturday’s game against the Bruins. He wasted no time reminding everyone he was back in the lineup, opening the scoring for Washington with a beautiful deflection of a John Carlson shot. The Caps were hoping Boyd could provide an offensive spark for the team, and despite only skating 7:37, he proved that he was more than up for the challenge.

Verdict: Please stay

Nic Dowd only skated in two of Washington’s four games last week after sustaining an upper-body injury in Philadelphia, but he looked solid. He tallied one assist against the Flyers and made sure to be involved in play at both ends of the ice. Hopefully he’ll return to the lineup tonight or Wednesday!

Verdict: Get well soon!

Lask week is probably one Lars Eller would like to forget. He was on the ice for three goals against and no goals for - yes, you read that right, he wasn’t on the ice for a single Capitals’ goal last week. Yikes. Eller had also been doing relatively well at the dot this season, posting a 46.55% faceoff percentage. Compared to his 57.21% in the month of October, last week was...bad. The only good things for Eller last week: he stayed out of the box and he recorded 16 shots on goal, second on the team to Ovechkin.

Verdict: Dropping

Carl Hagelin hasn’t played in a game since November 7, and the team has not released any information on a schedule for his return to the lineup. He made an appearance at Friday’s practice but was wearing a non-contact jersey, so it is unclear when he will make a full recovery from his upper-body injury.

Verdict: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Garnet Hathaway was relatively unnoticeable last week. He skated 5:37 on the penalty kill and was a solid presence, but he was held off the score sheet entirely last week and only registered four shots on goal. For someone who had such a hot start to the season, Hathaway sure has been struggling a bit lately.

Verdict: Dropping

Evgeny Kuznetsov played four great games last week. He tallied four points (3G, 1A), including a two-goal outing against the Coyotes on Monday. Two of his three goals came on breakaways, and he also scored the shootout winner against the Flyers. He also just looks more like the player people expect him to be out on the ice, which is an encouraging sign. Don’t look now, folks, but I think the old Kuzy might be back...

Verdict: Steady

Brendan Leipsic had a good week! He opened the scoring in Philly with his second goal of the season, and he is still just as slippery as ever on the ice. Watching him skate is fun, y’all. He also tallied an assist against the Bruins, all while only averaging 8:49 of ice time per game. Leipsic continues to prove why he was an excellent addition to the Caps’ fourth line this offseason.

Verdict: Steady

All-American Hero T.J. Oshie strikes again! That’s right, we had an Oshie shootout goal last week! Not shocking, I know. The shocking fact is this: in the Capitals’ three (!!!) shootouts last week, T.J. Sochi only scored one shootout goal. Oshie also played late-game hero twice last week, scoring in the final 90 seconds against the Coyotes and in the final 60 seconds in Boston. He did have eight giveaways, which isn’t awesome, but he tried to offset those with six takeaways. All in all, a solid week from Teej.

Verdict: Steady

Alex Ovechkin with another solid week? You bet! Highlights include: his 14th goal of the season, laying 14 hits and playing some incredibly physical games, and almost scoring on an overtime partial breakaway after already having been on the ice for 3:08. Because he’s Ovi. The Caps’ captain, not to be confused with Captain, is still lookin’ good.

Verdict: Steady

Richard Panik returned to the Capitals’ lineup after a ten-game absence on LTIR, and he...continued to struggle. He had a few good looks, including several in Philadelphia, but was unable to convert on any of them. Panik, who signed a four-year, $2.8 million AAV with the team this summer, is still without a point as a Cap.

Verdict: I’ll believe it when I see it

Chandler Stephenson had another relatively quiet week. He registered three shots on goal and no points through four games. He did lay eight hits, so that’s a solid physical performance. Was it a bad week from the Chan Man? No, but it wasn’t great either.

Verdict: Steady

Jakub Vrana only tallied one point last week, but it was a beautiful pass to spring Kuznetsov for a breakaway against Arizona. The real highlight for Jake the Snake, however, was his shootout winner in Boston on Saturday. To quote Gwen Stefani, that goal was bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s! Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, please go find a video, because it was a sweet Datsyukian move that totally fooled Halak. On the downside for Vrana: he took three minor penalties last week, two more than any of his teammates. Oof.

Verdict: Steady

After a few hot weeks, Tom Wilson seems to be cooling off a little. He had two assists through last week’s four games, so he hasn’t kept his scoring pace up. He did, however, lay 18 hits and only spend two minutes in the penalty box, which is pretty solid. Another case of “Not Bad but Not Great”...

Verdict: Steady

John Carlson just can’t stop scoring points in NHL games, can he...he had a beautiful assist on Leipsic’s goal on Friday night that got him to the 30-point mark on the season, and he notched four assists total. With all of those assists, Carlson extended his latest point streak to six games. He also continues to lead the Caps in ice time, although fellow blueliner Dmitry Orlov did come within one minute of Carlson’s total last week.

Verdict: On the rise

Radko Gudas struggled a bit last week, most notably in his return to Philadelphia. Jakub Voracek made Gudas look like an absolute fool when he drove to the net for what would be Claude Giroux’s game-tying goal, and he was the only Capital other than Eller to not be on the ice for any Capitals’ goals last week. However, don’t be too worried, because Gudas seemed to be fitting in very well with the Caps so far this season. He should be able to recover quickly.

Verdict: Dropping

Oh Nick Jensen...he can be so incredibly frustrating to watch because his mistakes often feel so glaring and boneheaded. Luckily, this week looked to be free of any “Come on, Jensen!” moments. He continues to move the puck well when he can maintain control, and his skating actually seems to have improved over the past few weeks. Skating with Siegenthalter seems to be doing the trick, so perhaps the next step is his first goal as a Capital? Stay tuned...

Verdict: Steady

Michal Kempny had a bit of a quiet week, but it wasn’t bad by any means. He managed to stay out of the box through all four games, which feels like progress for someone who has made it his mission to tour every penalty box in the NHL. He also tallied one assist, the primary helper on Kuznetsov’s second goal against the Coyotes. All in all, a steady week for the Czech blueliner.

Verdict: Steady

Tyler Lewington Play As A Forward Challenge! Yup, defenseman Tyler Lewington was called up from Hershey on Friday after injuries had both Dowd and Hagelin sidelines because the cap-strapped Caps couldn’t afford to bring up another forward, so it looked like they were rolling with 11 forwards and seven defenseman that night. That was sort of true, but Lewington took a couple of surprise shifts as a forward, something he hasn’t done since he was much younger! Was it a successful experiment? Nope, but it did make that horrible game against Montreal a little less painful at times!

Verdict: Well that was fun, let’s not do it again

Dmitry Orlov had a decent week. His ice time jumped from an average of 18:45 through three games two weeks ago to 25:41 through four games last week. That’s a huge workload increase, and it seems like Orlov is handling it well. Did he tally any points last week? No, but did he have a ton of moments that made you want to yell at your TV? No, and that’s a step in the right direction.

Verdict: Steady

After scoring his first NHL goal two weeks ago, Jonas Siegenthaler has cooled off a bit. He is still trying to get involved in offensive plays, but he was held off the score sheet last week. However, he still remains an integral part of the Caps’ penalty kill and continues to skate heavy shorthanded minutes. One goof from Siegs last week? He accidentally tapped a puck past Samsonov against the Canadiens on Friday while trying to sweep it out of the crease. Oopsies...

Verdict: Steady

Braden Holtby had a really solid week between the pipes. He kept the Caps in the game in Philadelphia and made some killer saves against the Bruins. Through two games, the Holtbeast posted a .944SV% and a GAA of 1.39. To translate - he was excellent. He seems to have bounced back from his rough start to the season and is now 9-0-1 in his last ten starts. That’s good, right? Asking for a friend...

Verdict: On the rise

Ilya Samsonov played in two of last week’s games, and he looked pretty confident. His overall numbers took a hit because of his game against the Habs on Friday, but his outing against Arizona with a .914SV% was solid. It looks like Samsonov still needs some practice in shootout scenarios, but he looked solid otherwise. The more games he starts, the more excited I get about him; he is clearly trying to prove to everyone that he deserves this backup job and that the hype surrounding him prior to this season was justified, and I think it is safe to say he is succeeding.

Verdict: Steady