Caps Top Six: The Must-Wins Begin

Don’t lump it in as “panic talk”, but Adam’s absolutely right when he says the Washington Capitals are in a place where losing – particularly to divisional opponents – just isn’t acceptable.

Yet, here we are, a week after the All-Star Game break in a situation where the Caps took a step forward and then strutted back a few. Going 1-2-1 didn’t help secure the Southeast Division lead and the road is only going to get tougher from here on out.

As we look toward a week that features two divisional match-ups and another Sunday matinee, this time versus the New York Rangers, let’s reflect on the few that stood out in a losing week that could come back to haunt the Capitals in early April.

1. Tomas Vokoun – shutout versus Montreal

It’s a tough time to be Vokoun. One night, you turn in a stellar performance against the Habs and the next morning you can’t get any goal support despite your efforts in net against the Bruins. Vokoun’s getting better with each start for the Caps, but his offense needs to bail him out one of these days.

2. Brooks Laich – one goal, three assists, four points

With any luck, the injury he endured during Sunday’s Bruins game isn’t too serious, but the thought of a Laich-less team should have most Caps fans in the fetal position. A team without Laich, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green means the Caps’ playoff hopes would be awfully dim.

3. Karl Alzner – one assist, plus-three on the week

Alzner has been the Caps’ steadiest defender for quite some time now and the plus-minus tells most of the story. When he’s on the ice, the Caps have defensive security, but when he checks out, open season begins at Tomas Vokoun’s net.

4. Matt Hendricks – two goals, two points, plus-three

Hendricks scored goals No. 2 and No. 3 this week against Tampa Bay and Montreal, respectively. He also did the whole “fourth-liner tries to get some energy on the bench with a fight” routine against the Bruins. That’s a solid week for Hendricks, if you ask us.

5. Mathieu Perreault – one goal, one assist, two points

Perreault has simmered down since his brief stints on the top line in Marcus Johansson’s absence before the All-Star Game break, but he’s turning in solid efforts in each outing despite decreased ice time. With Laich possibly out for a few games, another opportunity to step up might arise for No. 85, and we know he’s good to fill some skates when has too.

6. John Carlson – one goal, minus-one

Carlson hasn’t been great this season. At times he’s been awful (see his minus-four rating against Tampa Bay on Tuesday), but against the Panthers he scored his first goal since Dec. 7. It’s a start, and in a week short on heroes, it’s enough to land on this list.

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