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Capital Ups and Downs: Regular Season Finale

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Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals secured the Metropolitan Division for the fourth consecutive year last week, but how did each Cap fare in the final week of the regular season? Let’s take a look...

Nicklas Backstrom only played in two games last week because he was a held out of the lineup in game 82, and he looked...okay in the two games he did play. He scored his 22nd goal of the season against the Panthers on Monday night, but the rest of his night was not great (not unlike most of the Caps). He was on the ice for all three of the Panthers’ five-on-five goals, as well as their second period shorty. A bright spot in his week: a 60.61% at the faceoff dot on 33 attempts. An offensively quiet and defensively spotty final week probably isn’t how Backstrom wanted to go into the postseason, but he’s shown in the past that he can be reliable in big moments so Caps fans shouldn’t worry about this drop too much.

Verdict: Dropping

Travis Boyd also only played in two games last week, but he was part of a spectacular fourth line on Thursday night against Montreal. He set a beautiful screen for Nic Dowd’s second period goal (check out the hop if you missed it), and he looked good all night. His game on Saturday did leave a little to be desired, but that’s true of...hold on, let me check my notes...every Caps player. Was this Boyd’s best week? No, but it was solid.

Verdict: Steady

Andre Burakovsky was also part of Washington’s flying fourth line on Thursday, and he delivered a highlight reel set up for Dowd’s goal. During a stellar forechecking sequence, Burakovsky stole the puck from an unlucky Panthers’ player, spun around, and found Dowd with a perfect pass to the slot. That assist was his only point of the week, but boy was it pretty. He was otherwise quiet, but the fact that his post All-Star break confidence hasn’t disappeared is encouraging.

Verdict: Steady

Brett Connolly had a quiet week, by 2018-2019 Brett Connolly standards. He assisted on linemate Lars Eller’s goal against Montreal on Thursday, but that was his only point in three games. Conno has been pretty consistent in providing secondary scoring for Washington this season, so last week was a bit of a letdown. Hopefully he picks things back up come Thursday.

Verdict: Dropping

Nic Dowd had a pretty good week. He scored the game-winner against the Canadiens on Thursday; after a perfect pass from Burky, he snapped the puck past Carey Price for his eighth goal of the season. Fun fact: Dowd had just nine career goals before signing with the Caps this season. He is such a reliable center on Washington’s fourth line this season, and he looked particularly good last week. This is a good sign for his first-ever playoff run.

Verdict: On the rise

It’s no secret that Lars Eller likes to score against his former team, and he didn’t disappoint last week. He scored his fourth goal in three games against the Canadiens this season, finishing a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play from Hagelin and Connolly with a backhanded shot past Carey Price. That goal was his only point, but it was a darn pretty play. He also had a solid run at the faceoff dot, winning 28 of 51 for a 54.9% success rate. Eller’s week was another case of, “Was it a bad week? No, but it wasn’t great.”

Verdict: Steady

Carl Hagelin has been a solid addition to the Caps’ lineup since his arrival in Washington, and last week was no exception. He made a spectacular play to reclaim the puck and get a tic-tac-toe passing sequence started for Eller’s goal against the Canadiens, and he has continued to help anchor the Caps’ PK unit. Let’s hope that his strong play continues into Round One on Thursday.

Verdict: Steady

There was a Dmitrij Jaskin sighting on NHL ice last week! After 47 days, Jaskin finally got in the Capitals’ lineup for the regular season finale! Wouldn’t it have been amazing if he had scored a goal on Saturday night? Alas, he did not; he only had one shot on goal and four hits that night. He probably won’t see any ice time during the postseason, but still he seemed pretty confident for someone who hadn’t played in almost two months.

Verdict: Steady

Evgeny Kuznetsov’s rollercoaster-style play extended into last week, and it was rough. He did tally his fourth road goal of the season in Florida to get the almost-comeback started, but he struggled otherwise. His bad season in the faceoff circle continued, winning only 12 of 34, and he was on the ice for one Panthers’ goal against and two Islanders’ goals against. The Caps really need Kuzy to step up again for the playoffs, but last week wasn’t the way to make it happen.

Verdict: Dropping

T.J. Oshie only played in two games, but he was the only Capital with two points last week. He had two beautiful backhand passes in Sunrise on Monday, one to Backstrom and one to Vrana, to help fuel that almost-comeback that Kuzy got started. He was offensively quiet otherwise, going both games without recording a single shot on goal, but he didn’t get eaten alive defensively like some of his teammates.

Verdict: Steady

Alex Ovechkin had a rough week, even by normal human standards. He led the team in shots with 13 and he tallied an assist in Sunrise, but out of the nine goals scored against the Caps last week, Ovi was on the ice for six of them. Washington’s top lines struggled mightily in this regard last week, and there was no offensive production to make up for it. Caps fans shouldn’t be worried about this drop in 2019’s Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy-winner Alex Ovechkin come playoffs, but last week was a bit of a downer for the Caps’ captain.

Verdict: Dropping

Chandler Stephenson played in two games last week, and he tallied two shots on goal while averaging 12:03 minutes of ice time each night. Stephenson wasn’t on the ice for any goals against, but he wasn’t on the ice for any goals for either. Just like two weeks ago, last week was pretty par for the course for Stephenson.

Verdict: Steady

Jakub Vrana continued his steady play this season last week. He scored his 24th goal of the season on Monday night at six-on-five after a nice pass from Oshie, tallied six total shots on goal, and had one takeaway. He was on the ice for two of the Islanders’ three goals on Saturday, but it didn’t seem like anyone was trying particularly hard that night so it’s hard to fault him for that since it was the only real blemish on his play last week.

Verdict: Steady

Tom Wilson did not have a great week. He was second on the team in shots on goal with nine, but he struggled defensively and didn’t have any offense to make up for it. He was on the ice for six goals against and no goals for. Wilson had a career year this regular season, so to see him cool down in the final week was a bit disappointing. Hopefully he turns things around again by Thursday.

Verdict: Dropping

John Carlson only played in two of the Capitals’ three games, but he hit a career milestone last week: with his assist on Kuznetsov’s goal on Monday night marked his first 70-point season of his career. The assist was a pretty sweet slap pass, too. Not bad, Carly, not bad.

Verdict: Steady

Christian Djoos had an okay week. He didn’t have any offense to speak of, but he also didn’t make any egregious mistakes. He pretty much flew under the radar last week, which isn’t necessarily a good sign from a player that will hopefully step up in Michal Kempny’s absence, but fingers crossed he’ll turn things up a bit for the postseason.

Verdict: Steady

Nick Jensen had a bit of a drop-off last week. He had been producing offense in a pretty consistent way since his arrival in Washington, but he cooled off last week. The Caps struggled defensively in both of their losses, and Jensen was no exception to that. While he didn’t have any moments that made fans cringe, he seemed to lack a sense of urgency. Last week was not a big drop in play, but it was noticeable enough to be a little worrisome.

Verdict: Dropping

The Capitals announced last week that Michal Kempny will be out four to six months after having surgery to repair a torn left hamstring. Ouch.

Verdict: :(

Matt Niskanen had a bit of a rocky week, which sounds about right. He tallied a secondary assist on Vrana’s six-on-five goal in the last minutes of Monday’s game and he was third on the team in shots on goal with eight, but he had some cringe-worthy defensive missteps. The most obvious blunder was some sloppy play in the defensive zone that led to Jonathan Huberdeau’s goal. Oof.

Verdict: Steady

Dmitry Orlov, much like his defensive partner, had a less-than-stellar week. He was part of that sloppy play in the d-zone that resulted in Huberdeau’s second period tally, and didn’t have any offense to offset his mistakes. Steady, but steadily...eh.

Verdict: Steady

This was another “good by Brooks Orpik standards” week for Brooks Orpik. His ice time dipped a little, particularly against the Panthers, which probably helped his overall game. He was the only Capitals defenseman who wasn’t on the ice for a single goal against, and he avoided any lazy stick penalties and stayed out of the box. He also seemed more offense-hungry last week, throwing the puck to the net whenever he could and tallying five shots on goal. All in all, a solid week for the veteran blueliner.

Verdict: Steady

Jonas Siegenthaler alert! That’s right y’all, he was back on NHL ice last week! Siegenthaler drew into the lineup on Saturday to give John Carlson a night off, and he...was pretty quiet. He had one takeaway and laid two hits in 18:06 of ice time. Nothing exciting to report, but nothing bad either.

Verdict: Steady

Pheonix Copley did not have a lot of offensive or defensive support in his two outings last week so it’s impossible to pin either loss on his goaltending alone, but he had some rough moments of his own. He faced 56 shots and saved 50 of them for a .893 SV%, but his high-danger SV% dropped to .722 on the week. Copley proved to be an overall pretty reliable backup netminder for Washington this season, so it was a bit of a bummer to see him end his season on a low note.

Verdict: Dropping

Braden Holtby looked solid against Montreal on Thursday. The Habs put a lot of net-front pressure on Holtby starting early in the game, but he stood tall and saved 32 of 33 shots to post a .971 SV% on the night. Finishing his regular season with a strong victory is the best possible way for Holtby to enter the postseason, and fingers crossed he keeps it up for what will hopefully be a long playoff run.

Verdict: On the rise