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Capital Ups and Downs: Hello November

Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs

Buffalo Sabres v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

We’re a month into the season, and what a month it was for the Capitals. They’re off to their best start in franchise history with a record of 11-2-3 and 25 points, which leads the League. October was a great month for many of the guys in red, but what did its end and the beginning of November look like for them? Let’s find out...

Nicklas Backstrom has been pretty quiet lately. He tallied three assists last week, which was good for fifth-most points on the team, but feels underwhelming for him. Additionally, all three of those assists came in Toronto, which means he was held completely off the score sheet for the other two games last week. That’s the part that feels a bit worrisome. Another concerning stat? Backstrom only went 41.38% at the faceoff dot, losing 34 of 58 matchups. Oof. Hopefully last week was just a blip and he returns to his usual high caliber of play soon.

Verdict: Dropping

Watching Travis Boyd skate is just so much fun. He can fly down the ice with what seems to be reckless abandon, but then he has so much patience with the puck and knows exactly when to make the play. He played in all three games last week because of the injury to Dowd, and he made the most of it. While he recorded no shots on goal, he had two primary assists on two very pretty goals from the Caps’ fourth line. It will be interesting to see how the rotation works when Dowd returns from injury, but Boyd is making a pretty good case to stay in the lineup.

Verdict: Steady

Nic Dowd left the ice during the first period in Toronto on Tuesday night after not being able to put weight on his right leg, and hasn’t been in the lineup since. He has skated in a non-contact jersey, which is a good sign, but it has been fairly clear that his presence is missed on the fourth line. Hopefully his injury isn’t too bad and he returns soon.

Verdict: Get well soon!

Lars Eller had a solid three games last week. He only tallied one point, but it was a beauty of a power play goal against Calgary. He fired a high and hard shot past Talbot to find the corner and grab his first goal on the man-advantage this season. The biggest highlight of his week, however, came in the faceoff circle; Eller went 33-for-56, winning 58.93% at the dot. That’s impressive, especially for someone who only went 48.96% last season.

Verdict: Steady

Carl Hagelin’s struggles continued into last week. He is still searching for his first goal of the season, and he was held off the scoresheet through last week’s three games. His speed and PK ability are still huge assets for him on the ice, but his zero shots on goal through three games is a bit discouraging. Is this just a rough patch for Hagelin? Let’s hope so, because the Caps could sure use some more offense on that third line.

Verdict: Steadily...meh

Garnet Hathaway had quite the hot start to the season, but he seems to have cooled off a bit on the offensive side of things. However, he is still a big, physical presence on the ice and he clearly isn’t afraid to throw his weight around (his 13 hits led the team last week). He is also a solid penalty killer, logging the third-most shorthanded ice time for forwards through last week’s three games in which the Caps gave up just one power-play goal on 12 chances. He looks decent on the third line with Eller and Hagelin, but perhaps things will spark for him again once Panik returns and he gets bumped back down to the fourth line…

Verdict: Dropping

Evgeny Kuznetsov had a bit of a quiet week by Evgeny Kuznetsov standards. There was a bit of a worrisome moment in Toronto when Kuznetsov left the ice after injuring what looked like his shoulder early in the game, but he returned later in the first and seemed to be okay. His two primary assists last week, his only points, came on two of Jakub Vrana’s goals on Sunday, and they were pretty sweet. He also only spent two minutes in the penalty box, which is a nice change. All in all, nothing spectacular, but nothing to complain about.

Verdict: Steady

Brendan Leipsic finally found the back of the net as a Cap! It felt like a goal was coming any day for him these last two weeks, and it finally happened on Friday night. Leipsic has been skating on the Caps’ sparking fourth line, and seems to be fitting in just fine. He looks comfortable and has no trouble driving plays on both ends of the ice.

Verdict: On the rise

T.J. Oshie had a quietly solid week. He tallied two points through Washington’s three games, including a beautiful tip-in of a Michal Kempny net-front pass for his eighth goal of the season. Was this week anything to write home about for Oshbabe? No, but it wasn’t a bad one.

Verdict: Steady

Alex Ovechkin played in his 1,100th NHL game on Sunday night, but that isn’t the only milestone he hit last week! He scored his 669th career goal in Toronto to pass Luc Robitaille for 12th place on the NHL’s all-time goals list. No big deal, right? Just another two-goal, five-point week for the Great 8, casual.

Verdict: Steady

Richard Panik is still on IR, but he did resume skating on Thursday in a non-contact jersey. He was set to be out through this weekend, but there’s no update on a date for his return yet.

Verdict: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Chandler Stephenson had a pretty solid week. He drew back into the lineup after Dowd’s leg injury on Tuesday, and he made the most of it with his goal on a beautiful backhand shot against Buffalo on Friday. While the Caps’ fourth line is definitely feeling the loss of Nic Dowd, Stephenson slotted back in nicely. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens when Dowd is healthy again, but at least Stephenson hasn’t been playing poorly when given the chance to play at all.

Verdict: Steady

Have yourself a WEEK, Jakub Vrana! He led the team in points with six and goals with five and he tallied his first career hat trick on Sunday night. All three of his goals were scored at even strength, and Vrana is now the fifth Cap to record at least three points in one game this season. Oh, and don’t forget, he also had a two-goal first period against Buffalo on Friday night. He is absolutely feeling it right now, and it doesn’t look like he’s stopping any time soon.

Verdict: On the rise

Tom Wilson had another great week. He tallied one goal and four assists through Washington’s three games, and his five points are tied for second-most on the team. He only went to the penalty box for two minor infractions, and, perhaps more notably, drew a whopping four penalties. Wilson also laid 12 hits, second on the team behind Hathaway. Not too shabby, Wilson, not too shabby.

Verdict: On the rise

John Carlson has...no points so far in the month of November? Weird. His only two points last week came on two goals in Toronto; he has been held off the scoresheet completely for the Caps’ last two games. However, it doesn’t seem to be for lack of effort. He recorded 14 shots through three games, second only to Ovechkin, and is still trying to take an active role in plays on both ends of the ice. Regardless, Carlson’s point pace was bound to slow down at some point, and it seems like it happened last week.

Verdict: Dropping

Radko Gudas is still hunting for his first goal as a Capital, but he has continued to impress in other ways. He only took one penalty through three games, which is good because he logs a lot of penalty kill minutes for the Caps. He skated 10:30 shorthanded minutes last week and has maintained his big, physical presence on the ice without letting things get out of hand. Gudas is proving himself to be a pretty valuable piece on Washington’s blue line.

Verdict: Steady

Nick Jensen had another “meh” week until Sunday, when he had one of his better games in a while. The 2019 Trade Deadline acquisition is still looking for his first goal as a Capital, but he actually looked relatively comfortable on the ice by the end of the week. Watching him on Sunday night didn’t make me nervous, which is definitely an improvement. He is also one of four Caps who has yet to take a trip to the penalty box this season, and two of those other players are Boyd and Panik, both of whom have played less than 10 games. That’s pretty refreshing on a team that seems to like touring every penalty box in the league. Clearly the Caps are still waiting for Jensen to find that next level of his play with them, but at least last week wasn’t a step backwards.

Verdict: Steady

Fun fact: the Capitals are 7-0-1 since Michal Kempny returned to the lineup three weeks ago. He made his return from injury much smoother than most people hoped he would and has been quite a force on the blue line. His offensive production alone is spectacular; he tallied four assists last week, and four points was good for fourth best on the team. That makes nine points through eight games this season, and all of them have been at even strength. Seems like the Caps are glad to have you healthy again, Kempny!

Verdict: On the rise

Will it ever not be frustrating to watch Dmitry Orlov play? Who knows. His play is so hard to predict on a game-to-game basis because he can hit the highest of highs and lowest of lows. He’ll make a horrible turnover that leads to an opponent goal, but next period he steals the puck perfectly to set up a drive down the ice that leads to a Capitals goal. The consistent inconsistency gets real tiring to watch after a while...

Verdict: Steadily nerve wracking

Who led the Capitals in shorthanded ice-time with 11:21 last week? That’s right, Jonas Siegenthaler! He also tied Carlson for the team lead in blocked shots with 31. Yes, Siegenthaler is still looking for his first NHL goal, but at least his defensive play is still solid while he waits for his offense to kick in. He is a nice solid presence on the Caps’ blue line, and that consistency is very assuring.

Verdict: Steady

Braden Holtby had a really solid bounce-back week. In his two games, he stopped 57 of 61 shots for a .934 SV% and posted a 1.94 GAA. That’s...really impressive. He also saved all 15 high-danger shots that came his way, which is encouraging. Caps fans know so much of Holtby’s game is mental, and he seems to be in a great place right now. Hopefully he keeps this solid play between the pipes up!

Verdict: On the rise

Ilya Samsonov only played in one of the Capitals’ three games last week, but he looked stellar through his 60 minutes. He made 25 saves on 27 shots (.926 SV%) to earn his fifth NHL win, which leads rookie goaltenders in the league. He seemed pretty dialed in and read the incoming plays well.

Verdict: Steady