The Washington Capitals 2015-16 season is right around the corner and training camps are getting close to being underway. The Capitals have a very manageable schedule for the upcoming season, with a few critical road trips that are mixed into it.
The NHL’s Western Conference has set the bar high over the past decade. The Western Conference has won the last four straight Stanley Cups. Since the 2004-05 NHL Lockout, the Western Conference has won seven Stanley Cups (including Detroit’s 2008 Cup win).
As a hockey fan, it is fun to watch and see teams from both conferences play each other. The Western Conference has dominated and has been the stronger conference in the past decade, but could the 2015-16 NHL season change the tide?
In 2014-15, the Capitals were fair against their Western Conference foes. The Capitals had a 12-13-3 record against the Western Conference (6-8 VS Central; 6-5-3 VS Pacific).
The Capitals will have several tests against the Western Conference in 2015-16. But which teams and road trips will be the toughest for the Capitals this season? Let’s take a look at some of the Capitals key dates against the Western Conference.
The Capitals Versus the Western Conference – Key Dates
October 15 – Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks Come Early
Three games into the regular season, the defending Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks come to Washington D.C. This will be the Blackhawks first trip back to D.C. since the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. Will the defending Stanley Cup Champions be fighting a cup hangover? This is certainly a big measuring stick game for the Capitals early to begin the season.
October 20-23 – Western Canada Trip
The Capitals will get to see plenty of the Western Conference in October. They will play three games in four nights as they take part in their early Western Canada road trip. The Capitals will first visit Calgary and then will go to Vancouver, and they will close the trip against Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers. Calgary and Vancouver were both playoff teams in 2014-15, while Edmonton is a team that is on the rise with their new superstar. This road trip will be tough, but the Capitals should be able to manage at least two wins out of it.
January 22 – Boudreau’s Ducks Visit Washington
Gabby and his Anaheim Ducks are favorites to win the Western Conference and to win the Stanley Cup in 2015-16. This is another measuring stick game for the Capitals to see where they stand against the best clubs in the NHL. The Capitals defeated the Ducks in a 3-2 shootout thriller last February in D.C.
March 7-12 – California Dreamin’
The Capitals will take in California in early March and will spend close to a week out there. The Capitals will first hit southern California as they face the Ducks on March 7 and Kings on March 9. After they visit southern California, they will head north up to the Bay Area to close the trip in the Shark Tank on March 12. The Capitals managed to get big wins in Anaheim and San Jose in 2014-15 – can they do the same one year later?
The Western Conference Games Matter
Any game against a Western Conference opponent is just as important as any game versus an Eastern Conference opponent. The elite NHL clubs always find ways to gain extra points in the standings against their out of conference opponents.
Since the Western Conference has been dominant in the last decade, games against Anaheim, Chicago, or Los Angeles are good measuring stick games. While the Capitals do not see these clubs as often as the clubs in the East, these games are still worth two points in the standings just like any other game. Most of the Western Conference clubs play a different style of hockey than the Eastern Clubs do. While the Eastern Conference clubs generally play more of a speed, skating, and scoring game, most of the Western Conference clubs play a more rugged, tight checking, physical game.
It is fun to see the two different styles of hockey clash against each other in the inter-conference matchups. The beautiful thing about hockey is that it can be played many different ways on the ice. Fans get a good glimpse of this with inter-conference matchups.
Any hockey fan should be encouraged to watch inter-conference matchups because they can be just as fun to watch as matchups that are within the same conference.
By George Foussekis