It is hard to believe that we are nearly a month away from the play-offs, and the Capitals are cruising through the season with 98 points and leading the league with this point total. However; the biggest test of the Capitals season boils down to these next 5 games and could provide possible playoff and Stanley Cup final previews.
After tonight’s game against the Rangers the team embarks on a seven-day, 4-game road trip that will take them through Boston, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose.
The Capitals begin the trip in Beantown. While the Capitals are 2-0 against the Bruins this season, they should not be taken lightly. Everyone knows about “Big Z”, aka Zdeno Chara who captains this squad. Gone is the snarl of Lucic, (who the Capitals will see again in LA), but the same core of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tuukkka Rask remain.
Next up on the trip are the Anaheim Ducks. This will be the first meeting in the season between the Capitals and the Ducks, as the first meeting of the season was postponed by Winter Storm Jonas. The Ducks had a slow start to the season, only winning 8 games in the first two months of the season. As a result, speculation swirled that head coach (and former Capitals head coach) Bruce Boudreau would be without a job yet again. However, as of late, the team has turned it around and now has won its last 7 games at home going into Monday’s game against the Capitals. However; even though the Capitals went 2-0 and swept the season series against the Anaheim Ducks, the Capitals cannot overlook the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler.
After a day off, the team will be heading to Los Angeles. This marks the return of both Mike Richards and Justin Williams since their departures to our nation’s capital. As Capitals fans observed in a 3-1 win over the Kings on the 16th of February, this team is defensive, fast and could catch the Capitals off-guard if they do not bring a strong game.
With that said, the Staples Center has been not been kind to the Capitals. Since the 2011-2012 season, the team has gone 0-3 (However, the Capitals did not play the Kings in the lock-out shortened season of 2012-2013) with a total of 10 goals scored against the Capitals in those 3 games.
Lastly, the team wraps up the West Coast swing with a date with the San Jose Sharks. The Capitals will say hello again to a familiar face in Joel Ward. The Capitals faced the Sharks very early in the season this year, with the Sharks skating away with the 5-0 win, behind some solid goaltending from Martin Jones.
The Sharks find themselves in 3rd place of the Pacific division with a record of 35-22-6 with 76 points . This is a departure from last year’s overall record of 40-33-9. As a result the team missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, which lead to the dismissal of former head coach Todd McLellan. The Sharks have now refocused, and have positioned themselves to be a formidable foe in the Western Conference this season. It is worth noting that the Capitals since the 2011-2012 season, their record in San Jose is 2-1 (much like the Kings, in the 2012-2013 campaign, the Capitals did not face the Sharks.), with the Capitals surrendering 11 goals in these three games.
If the Capitals are to have success in these next 5 games, they must adhere to the mantra that has helped them all season in “Sticking to the Script”. Meaning, this team will need to continue to be strong defensively, but also be patient and convert on all or most scoring chances that come their way, as these next five games will be a good test for this strong Capitals team.
By Andrea Sobolik