Washington Capitals

The week that was: Capitals plus and minus

The Capitals went 1-2 over the last week and now find themselves trailing 3-2 in their best-of-seven series with the Penguins. The Capitals week started off with a 3-2 loss in Game 3 of the series in a game they downright dominated but couldn’t solve Penguins’ goaltender Matt Murray. Game 4 also saw the Capitals defeated, this time falling to the Penguins 3-2 in overtime. The Capitals bounced back with a 3-1 victory in Game 5 to close out the week and keep their season alive for at least one more game.

Here’s a look at the plus…and minus…from the past week for Washington.

PLUS

Justin Williams

It hasn’t been the best postseason for Williams. He was part of a second line that couldn’t find the score sheet in Round 1 against the Flyers and his offensive struggles continued at the start of Round 2. Combine that with the fact that Williams has taken some untimely penalties, to the tune of a minus-3 penalty differential, and it’s safe to say that Williams’ 2016 postseason didn’t start out as he and the team imagined when he was signed as a free agent last July.

Williams began to turn things around over the last week. In Game 3, Williams potted a late third period goal that gave the Capitals hope that their furious comeback effort wouldn’t be for naught. In the end it was, but the goal was the start of a good week from Williams, who the Capitals need to step up if they want to advance to the Conference finals.

Williams followed up his goal in Game 3 with a key, game-tying assist in Game 4 on a goal by John Carlson. While the Caps eventually fell in overtime, they got there thanks in part to a nice set up by Williams on Carlson’s goal.

In Game 5, with his team up 2-1 in an elimination game, Williams found the net for his second goal of the playoffs. This important goal gave him team breathing room in a game that they had to win or else their season was over.

Williams overall playoff performance still isn’t great, but it’s trending in the right direction. His score-adjusted shot attempt percentage has climbed to 51.9 percent, although relative to his teammates he’s still below even, at minus-1.3 percent.

If Williams can continue to turn in performances like he did over the past week, it would go a long way towards silencing his critics that have said, after being brought in to help get the team over the hump in the playoffs, Williams hasn’t been good enough for the Capitals in the 2016 playoffs.

MINUS

Nate Schmidt

Perhaps instead of saying “Nate Schmidt” this minus should read “Barry Trotz’s confidence in Nate Schmidt.” Schmidt finds himself a minus in part because of his play but also in part because of a coaching decision to scratch him for Game 4. While he found himself back in the lineup to close out the week in Game 5, all signs point to Schmidt being the odd man out in Game 6 when Brooks Orpik returns from suspension.

Barry Trotz’s decision to bench the smiley Schmidt revolves around one play in Game 3. Schmidt turned the puck over on a failed clearing attempt and then, well, he didn’t recover all that well.

The underlying numbers in Schmidt’s gave haven’t been as strong over the past several months, but over the last week his play held up fine other than the very noticeable mistake that drew the ire of his head coach.

In the two games he played, Schmidt was a plus-4 in on-ice shot attempts at 5-on-5 and had six individual shot attempts in just 22 minutes of ice time. But alas, the mistake he made was big enough to cast a shadow over any other positive developments in his game in the eyes of his coach.

The Capitals next week starts off with Game 6 in Pittsburgh, a game they have to win or their season is over.

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