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Capital Ups and Downs: Playoffs Week One

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Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs, playoff style

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals are up 2-0 in their Round 1 series against the Carolina Hurricanes. How did each Cap factor into those victories?

Nicklas Backstrom have yourself a WEEK! Backstrom opened the Capitals’ postseason scoring with two goals in Game 1, and he scored another in Game 2. He was the best Caps player on the ice through both games, and he worked his butt off. His offensive production (3G, 1A) was certainly impressive, but what was perhaps even more impressive were his two shot blocks towards the end of Game 1. The Canes, only down by one, were piling on the pressure and Backstrom helped preserve the win by blocking two shots on goal. Way to turn things up a notch for the playoffs, Nicky!

Verdict: On the rise

Andre Burakovsky has been quiet so far. He has the least amount of ice time among all skaters with 12:46. That’s about all there is to talk about for him, which doesn’t necessarily bode well. The Caps’ stars certainly showed up last week, but they need secondary scoring too. Burakovsky can provide that, but it seems to come in spurts. Hopefully this was just a blip and the confidence he displayed after the All-Star break returns.

Verdict: Dropping

It’s no secret that Brett Connolly had a career year this season, and everyone was hoping that would continue into the playoffs. Unfortunately, Conno has laid low so far. He’s had a few chances, but hasn’t been able to cash in on any of them. He doesn’t log any time on the power play or the penalty kill so his ice time is lower than most forwards after the special teams-heavy games last week, but perhaps he’ll start contributing more when he gets more ice time. Fingers crossed, anyway.

Verdict: Steady

Nic Dowd had an up and down week. He looked good in his first-ever playoff game on Thursday, especially on the PK unit. However, Saturday afternoon’s game was a different story. He took a rough hit from Micheal Ferland in the second period and went down the tunnel for a while. He returned to the game (yay!) and almost immediately took a high-sticking penalty just a minute after T.J. Oshie went the box (yikes!). Canes’ goal. Then in the third, he took another high-sticking penalty which led to another Canes’ goal. Yikes. It was a pretty undisciplined game for a guy who usually keeps things in check. Hopefully this is just a fluke...

Verdict: Dropping

Lars Eller had an okay start to the postseason. He looked good on the Caps’ penalty kill, which was put to the test eight times through two games. He also potted the empty netter in Game 1 that sealed the win for Washington. He had a few other chances that didn’t pan out, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Overall, not a bad week, but not a stellar one either.

Verdict: Steady

Carl Hagelin has also been pretty quiet so far, another case of not a bad week but not an awesome one. Nothing bad to speak of, but nothing great either. He spent 5:06 on the PK and looked pretty solid, but that’s pretty much all there is to talk about as of yet.

Verdict: Steady

Don’t look now, but it seems like Evgeny Kuznetsov might be morphing back into 2018 Postseason Evgeny Kuznetsov. Washington’s favorite bird man tallied three assists through Games 1 and 2, including a beauty of a no-look pass to Orpik for the OT game-winner on Saturday. I could have picked any three of his primary assists to highlight, to be honest, but this one was the most important. He has looked excellent through two games, so fingers crossed this is a sign of more good things to come.

Verdict: On the rise

T.J. Oshie had a few notable moments last week, both good and bad. He scored one heck of a goal in Game 2 when he had some fancy footwork on display and kicked Justin Williams’ stick out of his way to give himself room to shoot. However, he also took two penalties last week, including a pretty boneheaded one with 3:31 left in Game 1 when the Capitals were only up by one. Thankfully, the Caps’ PK unit was up for the challenge. The penalties weren’t great, but Oshie showing up to score in a big moment to put the Caps up 2-0 is an encouraging sign.

Verdict: Steady

Alex Ovechkin? Not showing up in the playoffs? Never heard of him. Ovi has had a strong start to this postseason, posting one goal and two primary assists. His goal came in Game 1, when he was left comically wide open on the power play. Then he turned into quite the playmaker on Saturday, setting up two of the Capitals’ three goals in regulation. Ovi has been a beast out on the ice so far, which is a good sign for the Caps.

Verdict: On the rise

Chandler Stephenson is another quiet case (I know, I too was shocked). Not even a shot on goal to report. He has the third least ice time on the team with 14:19, behind Burakovsky and Djoos. That’s…all I’ve got.

Verdict: Steady

Jakub Vrana didn’t do much of anything last week. He made no offensive noise, and the most notable thing he did was take a poorly timed penalty during the third period of Game 1. The Canes were only down by one with nine minutes to go, and that was certainly not the time for a hooking penalty. Vrana has the potential to be an incredible offensive weapon for the Caps this postseason, so hopefully he turns things up soon.

Verdict: Dropping

Tom Wilson scored a sweet goal in Game 2 on Saturday. Noted playmaker Alex Ovechkin booked it up the ice and found a trailing Wilson with a cross-ice pass, which Wilson fired past Mrazek for the (at the time) go-ahead goal. Wilson also got on the board in Game 1 with an assist on Ovechkin’s power play tally in the first period. He also stayed out of the box and looked good on the PK. All in all, a good week for Top Line Tom, and possibly a sign that he’s heating up again for the playoffs.

Verdict: On the rise

John Carlson began this postseason with a bang. He tallied a whopping three assists in Game 1, including the primary assist on the Backstrom’s first goal of the game and the Caps’ first goal of the playoffs. He also almost won Game 2 for Washington in the final seconds of regulation, but Mrazek made quite the save to force OT. He seems to be struggling a bit defensively with playing on his left side, but at least his offense hasn’t suffered.

Verdict: Steady

Despite being in the Capitals’ lineup for both games, Christian Djoos only played a total of 13:32, including a measly 5;44 on Saturday afternoon. Granted, Saturday was due to the unusually high special teams usage, because Djoos plays on neither the power play nor the penalty kill, but it’s still alarming. He has also been on the ice for three of Carolina’s five goals this series, although he was also on the ice for the OT winner in Game 2. It’s honestly hard to make a verdict on Djoos’ play because we haven’t seen much of it, and when he is on the ice he doesn’t do anything noticeable either way. Another classic case of steady, but steadily…eh.

Verdict: Steady

This is Nick Jensen’s first NHL postseason, and it seems like he’s easing into things so far. He set an excellent screen in front of Mrazek for Wilson’s goal in Game 2, and he has also only been on the ice for one Carolina goal. Nothing special, but nothing too bad either. Only time will tell how Jensen’s first playoff run will go for him.

Verdict: Steady

Matt Niskanen had an okay start to the postseason. He was part of a beautiful passing sequence on Oshie’s goal in Game 2; after a feed from Orlov, he snapped the puck up the ice to Kuznetsov who then found Oshie. It was perfectly placed, truly a thing of beauty. He, of course, had his usual frustrating-to-watch defensive missteps, but not a bad week for Nisky.

Verdict: Steady

Dmitry Orlov, as per usual, had his highs and lows last week. He got the passing sequence for Oshie’s goal in Game 2 started, facilitating a good zone exit with Niskanen. Earlier in the game, he tallied an assist on Backstrom’s goal to open the scoring. He had his usual defensive fumbles, but at least last week he had some offense to balance things out.

Verdict: Steady

Brooks Orpik had a…really good start to the postseason last week. He tallied an assist on the Caps’ first goal of the playoffs, and, more importantly, he had the overtime game-winner on Saturday afternoon. I know, I’m still not over it either. Just as the team drew it up, right? And aside from his offensive production (*cough* Orpik currently has more postseason points than Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Auston Matthews, I could go on), he had a decent two games defensively. He looked good on the PK, and only had some minor bumps in his overall play.

Verdict: On the rise

Braden Holtby looked pretty good in net in Games 1 and 2. The Hurricanes are big fans of racking up the shots on goal per game, and Holtby proved that he can withstand the heat. His shining moments came in the both third periods when the Canes really turned up the pressure. Holtby has posted a .912 SV% with a 2.46 GAA through two games. All in all, a solid start in the playoff crease for Braden Holtby.

Verdict: Steady