Hooray! Capitals hockey is back and ready to roll for the 2015-16 NHL season. What better way to kick off the regular season than to have an early date with the New Jersey Devils!
The Capitals and Devils had a five-game regular season series in 2014-15, and the Capitals took four out of five games from the Devils. You may remember this highlight reel goal that Alex Ovechkin scored against the Devils last December:
This is the first of four meetings between the Devils and Capitals in 2015-16. Each team gets two home games. The Capitals and Devils will wait a while to see each other again as their next meeting will not be until February 6 in Newark.
Sizing up the Opponent: New Jersey Devils
New Jersey is heading in a new direction as an organization. They are trying to get younger and quicker on the ice, and they are trying to find ways to score more goals. The Devils only scored 181 goals in all 82 games last season, and finished with a poor -35 goal differential. The Devils 181 goals was the third worst goal total in the NHL in 2014-15, only ahead of Buffalo (161) and Arizona (170)
While the Devils do not score a lot of goals and they probably consider the NHL Shootout their worst nightmare, there is some hope in their future. The Devils have a young talented defensive core that has some upside. Eric Gelinas, Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill, and Damon Severson are all Devils draft picks that are still under 25 years of age. The blueline is young and they are still growing, but there is a pretty good foundation of players there.
The Devils have a new bench boss for this season. John Hynes was named the Devils 17th Head Coach in franchise history back in June. He is the former Wilkes-Barre Scranton (AHL) bench boss. He led the Penguins to several winning seasons and playoff berths, so he has a winning background. I am sure the Devils might pick up the pace and play a little faster under John Hynes.
Wave to the Good Guys: Washington Capitals
“Stick to the Script” is the new theme for the Capitals in 2015-16. The Capitals are positioned to have a good season in Barry Trotz’s second season as the bench boss. Many consider the Capitals the favorites to win the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference.
Coming off a 53-goal campaign in 2014-15, Alex Ovechkin has shown no signs of slowing down from preseason action. Ovechkin has also shown some good early chemistry with new Capitals forward T.J. Oshie.
Surprisingly, the Capitals are the 5th youngest team entering the new season. There is a lot of excitement surrounding some of the Capitals younger players as they are expected to grow and develop. Players like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Dmitry Orlov, and Andre Burakovsky will have bigger roles with the club and their production is expected to increase.
There is a good mix of players in the Capitals locker room. The Capitals have some veterans with plenty of NHL experience – Brooks Orpik, Justin Williams, Jason Chimera. The Capitals have established core guys who are in their prime – Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby. Finally, the Capitals possess plenty of youth in their lineup – Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson, Dmitry Orlov.
The immediate future is bright in Washington and there is a lot to be excited about. The Cup window is open now, and the Capitals need to take as many chances as they can to bring the Cup to Washington D.C.
New Jersey Devils
Mike Cammalleri – Travis Zajac – Lee Stempniak
Adam Henrique – Jacob Josefson – Kyle Palmieri
Reid Boucher – Sergey Kalinin – Jiri Tlusty
Tuomo Ruutu – Stephen Gionta – Jordin Tootoo
Andy Greene – Adam Larsson
Jon Merrill – John Moore
David Schlemko – Damon Severson
Devils – Cory Schneider: Entering his third season in New Jersey, Cory Schneider is the cornerstone of the Devils future in between the pipes. The 29-year old Marblehead, MA native played in 69 games for the Devils in 2014-15 and recorded 26 wins, 2.26 goals against average, and .925 save percentage. His 26-win total seems a little low, but that is a product of the Devils skaters not giving Schneider much goal support. Schneider can keep the Devils alive and hanging around in any game, and he can steal almost any game by himself. Schneider is one of the best goaltenders the Capitals will face in the Metropolitan Division and in the Eastern Conference.
Capitals – Evgeny Kuznetsov: The Capitals second line center will be filling in on the Capitals top line for a few games as Nicklas Backstrom continues his rehab from hip surgery. Kuznetsov signed a 2-year extension in the offseason to remain in Washington and he will get more responsibility with his new contract. “Kuzy” played in 80 games for the Capitals in 2014-15 and he put up 11 goals and 37 points in those games. He caught fire in the playoff series against the NY Islanders and was probably the Capitals best player in that series. He is showing flashes of greatness, and it will be interesting to see if his momentum keeps up from the second half of last season.
Saturday, October 9, 2015 – CSN-DC; MSG +; 7 PM ET
Capitals win 4-2 (Carlson PP GWG)