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Capital Ups and Downs: Week 21

Our weekly look at individual Washington Capitals‘ ups and downs:

Goalies Trend Notes
Michal Neuvirth Saw action in all four games this week, relieving Tomas Vokoun in the first two and playing well enough to earn himself starts in the last two (which included his first home start since December 20 and both games of a back-to-back). All told, Neuvirth ended the week 2-0-0/1.78/.944 and is 5-4-2/2.18/.925 in 11 appearances since December 13. For the moment, he’s the guy…
Tomas Vokoun … in part because Vokoun has picked the wrong time to forget how to stop pucks. Vokoun entered the week on a 13-9-2/2.15/.930 run since Dale Hunter took over behind the bench, but lasted just five minutes (quick hook?) in Carolina and 32 in Ottawa, stopping 12 of the 18 shots he faced in the two games. Yes, it’s just two games… but what a bad time to post back-to-back stinkers.
Karl Alzner In four games last week, the Caps allowed 13 goals, but Karl Alzner was only on the ice for two of them (both coming against Ottawa), one of which was scored on a power-play. That’s a pretty good week for the team’s top defender, who was also on for two goals-for. Fun fact: Alzner hasn’t had two shots on goal in a game since December 15, registering single shots in 16 of the 31 games since (he hasn’t scored since October and has just one assist in 2012).
John Carlson Carlson was on the ice for three Sens goals, but none in the week’s other three games. He lit the lamp in Ottawa (giving him a new career-high with eight goals) and had a helper against the Habs, giving him a generally solid week overall.
John Erskine Hasn’t seen game-action since February 12, which was his only game this month.
Mike Green Looking better every game… so we’re ready for the point-production to resume. Green hasn’t scored or assisted on a goal since October 22 (eight games), and only has pointed in three of the 15 games he’s played this season. At the other end of the ice, Green struggled in Carolina (on-ice for four goals-against, two at even-strength and one on each special teams unit), but had a clean sheet the rest of the week and was on for a trio of Caps tallies, even if he didn’t have a direct hand in any of them.
Roman Hamrlik Scratched (rather dramatically) after an off night in Raleigh and rumored to possibly be on his way out of town, which would turn that into a
Dmitry Orlov With points in four of his last six games (including a pretty assist in each of the weekend games) and being on the ice for a team-high six of the ten goals the Caps scored for the week, Orlov is providing offense. At the same time, his defense has been good (he’s also leading Washington blueliners in hits-per-game), occasional rookie mistakes notwithstanding.
Tom Poti If you’re among those who believe that Columbus blueliner Jack Johnson is an overall net-negative as a hockey player, you think Scott Howson would have been better off trading Jeff Carter for Poti and a pick last week. Noodle that for a minute.
Jeff Schultz Sarge was on the ice for four goals-against (two while penalty-killing) and two goals-for last week, and also took his first minor penalty since Bruce Boudreau was still calling the shots in D.C. Partnered once again with Green, Schultz seems to be relatively comfortable out there lately.
Dennis Wideman Wideman has gone 11 games without a goal and eight without an assist, and his defensive game appears to have fallen off that same cliff, as the nine goals-against for which he was on the ice last week (of the 13 the Caps allowed) would imply. In fact, Wideman’s been on for the last five goals the Caps have surrendered. Not to play pop psychologist here, but perhaps the pending UFA has been distracted by uncertainty and/or a lack of interest from his current employer as the trade deadline looms, and that’s impacting his play.
Keith Aucoin Recalled earlier in the week and picked up where he left off (i.e. pretty much doing nothing) until potting a goal and an assist in Toronto… which earned him a trip back to Hershey on Sunday. What’s next for Aucoin likely depends on what the Caps’ roster looks like at 3:00 this afternoon.
Nicklas Backstrom Backstrom hasn’t played since January 3 and somehow still leads the team in assists, with more helpers than guys who have played 24 games since then. Unreal.
Jay Beagle Beagle was pointless this week (no surprise, given that he has just one point on the season in 21 games), and, in fact, didn’t register a shot on goal either. But he did some solid cycling work and had an even goal-differential at even-strength, so there’s that.
Troy Brouwer Barring a tally against the Islanders tomorrow night, Brouwer will end February without a goal, and have just one in the 21 games since his hat trick against the Bolts. He has just one helper for the month, and a minus-7 rating, thanks in part to being on the ice for five goals-against last week and nary a goal-for. The Caps’ haven’t gotten enough secondary scoring for a while, and Brouwer’s one of the biggest (non-)contributors to that problem.
Jason Chimera Like Brouwer, Chimera is counted on to provide a goal every four games or so. Unlike Brouwer, last week he did provide a goal (the eventual game-winner against the Habs) and added a couple of assists and 15 shots on goal. In the two games over the weekend in particular, Chimera was using his speed and making things happen (most of which were good).
Jeff Halpern Halpern’s season has been such an unsung success that we might as well take the chance to sing it now, in light of his game-winning goal in Toronto. Halpern’s week, like his season, included a lot of hard-work that goes relatively unnoticed, including winning 63% of his 38 faceoffs, 8:21 of perfect penalty-killing, and impressive cycling.
Matt Hendricks Besides a fight in Carolina, there was a whole lotta nothing of note in Hendricks’ week, which can more or less be said for his entire February, a month in which he has just one goal and two points (and two fights) so far.
Marcus Johansson It had been a while since Johansson showed more than the very occasional glimpse of how bright his future might be, but it was on display over the weekend, with the speed and creativity that separate top prospects from the rest. As he struggles with his consistency (and his role), these reminders are certainly welcomed.
Mike Knuble A pair of minus-1’s on the road and weekend healthy scratches likely mean the end of the line for Knuble the Cap, who has gone 31 games without a goal. If this is it, godspeed to one hell of a hockey player – I’m glad I got to see him rock the red.
Brooks Laich A rough start to the week (a minus-four rating and a frustration fight through two games) ended a bit easier, but no more productive for Laich, who has just two goals and three points in February and has only been on the ice for two Caps goals in the last 11 games.
Alex Ovechkin Ineffective and injured in Carolina, Ovechkin sat out the Ottawa game but returned against Montreal and scored on a vintage Ovechkin one-time laser before adding a pair of assists and five shots on goal the following night. The pressure is certainly on him now to lead his team to the post-season – no one will take more blame if they come up short.
Mathieu Perreault After a pair of goals this week, Perreault has 11 for the season on just 43 shots on goal (no one in the League has more than two goals and a shooting percentage above 25%). So, um, shoot more, Matty. With your stick.
Alexander Semin Of all the problems the Caps have at the moment, Alexander Semin isn’t one of them. With 30 points in his last 31 games, Semin is providing offense and being on the ice for just four goals-against in his last ten games, he isn’t hurting them in either end. Hell, he didn’t even take a penalty last week to go with his goal and three assists. Actually, I take back what I wrote earlier, Semin is a problem – what do you do with a pending unrestricted free agent who’s playing like this?
Joel Ward Ward scored his sixth of the year (and first in 22 games) on Friday and added an assist on Saturday. Granted, the former was into an empty net, but the extremely humble scoring streak that Ward’s now on represents his first back-to-back games with a point since the caps were 7-0-0 which, of course, feels like millenia ago. Of note, Ward has been on the ice for just one goal-against in his last 16 games, which is pretty impressive, given his role (which could stand to be increased).

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