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Capital Ups and Downs: Playoff Berth Clinched

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Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

How did each Washington Capital fare in last week’s home-and-home against Carolina and a visit to Tampa Bay? Let’s see...

Nicklas Backstrom had a pretty good week. His empty netter against the Hurricanes on Tuesday (unselfishly set up by Alex Ovechkin) made for 19 goals for number 19, but the true gem of his week was his two-goal game in Tampa on Saturday. Backstrom hit the 20-goal plateau for the fourth season in a row, and the sixth time in his career. He also assisted on Ovechkin’s 50th goal of the season, bringing his point total for the week to four. It looks like Slick Nick is picking things up again in time for the playoffs.

Verdict: On the rise

Travis Boyd played in all three of Washington’s games last week, but he didn’t play much; he only averaged 7:55 minutes of ice time per game. Therefore, he didn’t contribute much. He finished the week with an even +/- rating and only one shot on goal. This is a definite decline from his play two weeks ago, but fingers crossed this dip doesn’t last long.

Verdict: Dropping

Andre Burakovsky was quiet this week. He tallied zero points through Washington’s three games, and only had two shots on goal. His offense had been pretty consistent since the All-Star break up until last week, so this sharp drop-off is somewhat surprising. Burakovsky sure has picked an interesting time to cool off, but hopefully he picks things back up going into the playoffs.

Verdict: Dropping

Just another week in the life of Brett “#contractyear” Connolly. While he missed Saturday night’s game because of the flu that has been making its way around the team, he netted quite possibly his prettiest goal of the season on Thursday night in Raleigh. He was incredibly patient and dangled the puck before snapping it past Curtis McElhinney for his 22nd of the season. Shoutout to Conno for steadily providing some secondary scoring for Washington.

Verdict: Steady

Nic Dowd had the game winner in Raleigh on Thursday, and boy was it a beauty. He got the heel of his stick on a Nick Jensen shot from the boards to deflect the puck past McElhinney. This was Dowd’s seventh goal of the season, and his first in 12 games. He also had another solid week at the faceoff dot, winning 18 of 28 for a win percentage of 64.3%.

Verdict: Steady

Lars Eller had another rough week. He tallied no points through three games, and only managed one shot on goal. This is not the time for Eller to be quiet, with only one week left in the regular season before playoffs begin. His linemates have been relatively consistent, so hopefully Eller will start cashing in on more opportunities this week.

Verdict: Dropping

Carl Hagelin had a pretty solid week. He was bumped up to the Caps’ second line on Tuesday night with Kuznetsov and Oshie, and all three of them were flying up and down the ice. He assisted on two of Oshie’s goals last week; his goal on Tuesday and his first goal in Tampa on Saturday. He also drew two penalties and had three takeaways. All in all, another good week for Hagelin in Washington.

Verdict: Steady

I feel like a broken record here: Dmitrij Jaskin hasn’t been in the lineup since Washington’s ugly loss to Anaheim on February 17. Nothing to see here.

Verdict: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Evgeny Kuznetsov led the team in points this week with six, all assists. He had three helpers on Tuesday night, which also happened to be his bobblehead night at Capital One Arena, including a perfect thread of the needle across the slot for Oshie’s first period goal. He had the primary assist on Jakub Vrana’s goal in Raleigh, an absolutely beautiful pass that hit right on Vrana’s tape. He wrapped up his week with two secondary assists in Tampa, including one on Ovechkin’s power play goal. I’d say that’s a pretty solid week, wouldn’t you?

Verdict: On the rise

T.J. Oshie was out of the lineup in Raleigh on Thursday because of the flu, but he still managed to score three goals in his two games last week. He opened the scoring on Tuesday night with a beautiful snap shot off a feed from Kuznetsov, and fired home goals both at even-strength and on the power play during the first period against the Lightning. He also assisted on Ovechkin’s 50th goal of the season, bringing him to four total points o the week. Not bad, Oshbabe, not bad.

Verdict: On the rise

In case you missed it, Alex Ovechkin hit the 50-goal mark for the eighth time in his career last week. He notched his 49th of the season at Capital One Arena on Tuesday, but after narrowly missing an empty netter on Thursday, he had to wait to hit 50 until Saturday night in Tampa. Of course, one goal wasn’t enough for the Ovi; he scored his 51st of the season with a power play slap shot from his office. Another great week for the Great 8.

Verdict: On the rise

Chandler Stephenson only played in the Capitals’ two road games last week, but he did manage to tally one secondary assist in Tampa on Saturday night. He was otherwise quiet, but that feels pretty par for the course for Stephenson.

Verdict: Steady

Jakub Vrana had one heck of a highlight-reel goal in Raleigh on Thursday. In typical Vrana fashion, he sped up the ice and, after a sweet feed from Kuznetsov, deked before going five-hole on McElhinney. Other than that goal, however, Vrana was relatively quiet offensively with just the one point. He has kept up his career-high scoring pace so it wasn’t necessarily a bad week for Vrana, but it wasn’t his best.

Verdict: Steady

Despite not scoring any goals last week, Tom Wilson still looked good; he had a +2 rating and two primary assists, including a slick pass to Backstrom on an odd-man rush in Tampa for Backstrom’s first of the game. Another highlight of his from last week? His fisticuffs with the Bolts’ Erik Cernak. Wilson was definitely the victor in this one, which was his first fight since February 7.

Verdict: Steady

John Carlson bounced back nicely from his rough four games two weeks ago. He had two two-point nights last week, one against the Hurricanes at home and one on the road in Tampa. He scored his 13th goal of the season on Tuesday, and he tallied three assists to bring his season total to a career-high 56. The third week of March was not kind to Carlson, but he seems to have recovered nicely and is back on the up and up.

Verdict: On the rise

Christian Djoos played really well last week. He averaged 15:03 minutes per game and made solid plays on both offense and defense. He started the sequence that led to Vrana’s goal in Raleigh with a pretty pass up the ice to Kuznetsov. On Saturday, he made an excellent play to break up a two-on-one at the end of the second period to help preserve the lead. While the loss of Michal Kempny is still worrisome, it helps that Caps fans can rest easy when Djoos is on the ice.

Verdict: Steady

Nick Jensen had some good offensive moments last week, but he struggled a bit defensively. He tallied two primary assists, including the shot that Dowd deflected past McElhinney on Thursday night for the game winner. However, his defensive play that night up until that moment was iffy. He also made a bad turnover in Tampa that led to Tyler Johnson’s goal at the beginning of the third period. His consistent offense is encouraging, so hopefully his defensive missteps are just a blip.

Verdict: Steady

Todd Reirden announced on Monday that top-pair defenseman Michal Kempny will be out “long-term” with the injury he sustained in the game against Tampa Bay on March 20. That doesn’t really bode well for Washington, but hopefully “long-term” is over as soon as possible.

Verdict: Steady

Matt Niskanen didn’t have a bad week, but he didn’t necessarily have a good week either. While he didn’t make any egregious mistakes, he also didn’t make a lot of noise otherwise. He finished the week with a +1 rating and three shots on goal while averaging 21:17 of ice time a night. He also led the team in blocked shots with six. That’s about it for Nisky last week.

Verdict: Steady

Dmitry Orlov turned the offense back up last week, notching two beautiful primary assists in three games. He set Carlson up for his goal on Tuesday night with an incredible slap pass from just below the blue line, and he made a beautiful play to set Backstrom up for his second goal of the game in Tampa. His defensive struggles haven’t stopped, but they do seem to have slowed down last week. Hopefully that slight trend continues into this last week of the regular season.

Verdict: Steady

Brooks Orpik had an okay week, by Brooks Orpik standards anyway. He did take a pretty dumb tripping penalty towards the end of the third period in Raleigh, but his primary assist on Connolly’s goal earlier in the game helped to take some of the sting away. Another notable part of his week: his fight with Tampa’s Anthony Cirelli, which Orpik, uh...won pretty decisively.

Verdict: Steady

Jonas Siegenthaler is back with the big club after Kempny was ruled out “long-term” with an injury. Siegenthaler hasn’t seen NHL ice since Washington’s 3-2 victory over the Canucks on February 5, but in his 20 games with the Hershey Bears since then he had four points (2G, 2A) and a +5 rating. Who knows if he’ll get a jersey in any of the last three games of the season, but he proved he is NHL-ready in his 25-game stint with the Caps earlier this season.

Verdict: Steady

Backup netminder Pheonix Copley didn’t get any ice time last week, nothing to report here.

Verdict: Steady

Braden Holtby played in all three of the Capitals’ games last week, and he looked good in all of them. He had two good games against the Hurricanes, and he came up especially big in the third period onslaught in Tampa on Saturday to keep the Caps in the win column last week. He allowed just six goals on 82 shots for a .927 SV% in those three games, and is a big part of why Washington has looked so solid lately.

Verdict: Steady