Over the last few years, Capitals fans have witnessed the wonderful highs and depressing lows of the regular season. The roller coaster regular season has treated the Capitals with more highs than lows in recent years, but there are games on the schedule every year that the Capitals seem to deliver duds and close calls. While the Capitals squeaked by the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night, the Capitals work ethic will need to improve if they want to have a successful road trip in the desert.
THE REBUILDING COYOTES
The Capitals organization has had more success than the Coyotes organization over the last number of years. In the last 12 seasons since the 2004-05 lockout, the Coyotes have made the postseason just 3 times. In that same timeframe, the Capitals have missed the postseason just 3 times. The Capitals have been a consistent contender in the Alex Ovechkin era, but the Coyotes have been rebuilding over the last 6 years.
One could call the Coyotes an “underdog” every time they face the Capitals, but they do not play like an underdog. Despite rebuilding, the Coyotes are always a tough test for the Capitals. They do not give the Capitals an easy victory, and the Coyotes make the Capitals earn the 2 points against them.
NOVEMBER 6 SCARE
On November 6, the Coyotes made their one and only appearance to Capital One Arena. They jumped on the Capitals early, taking a 2-0 lead before anyone watching could blink. The Capitals eventually took the game 3-2 in overtime, but the Coyotes were ready to play and had the Capitals on their heels early.
MARCH 31 BEATDOWN
The Capitals last trip to Arizona came last March. It was a trip to the desert in which they eventually wanted to burn the game tape. The Capitals delivered a dud that evening, and got destroyed by the Coyotes 6-3.
THE FLASHY GOLDEN KNIGHTS ARE TOUGH AT HOME
In addition to the Coyotes, the Capitals will face off against the Golden Knights for the first time on this road trip. The Golden Knights have taken the league by storm, and are having a great season so far.
In their inaugural season, the Vegas Golden Knights are plowing through their home schedule. They have already won 14 out of 17 games at home. They currently are at the top of the Pacific Division.
Vegas assembled most of their team through the expansion draft. The players that they drafted are playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. This Golden Knights team is dangerous, and the Capitals need to take them seriously as they enter their tough environment.
AVOID THE “TRAP GAME”
Earlier this season, Barry Trotz talked about the importance of avoiding the “trap game.” A good way to avoid the trap scenario is to have good work ethic. The Capitals need to match the effort the Coyotes and Golden Knights will play with. The Capitals have had the target on their back for several years now, and they will continue to get every opposing team’s best shot.
The Capitals need to avoid those “dud” games more often, especially against teams that they do not see as often. There are no “easy” games on the schedule, but there are winnable games. With more depth at various positions, there is no reason the Capitals cannot completely sweep this 2-game desert road swing. Good work ethic and on-ice effort is needed to turn the “trap games” into more points in the standings.
By: George Foussekis