Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals dropped a third straight game following their bye week with an overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Even though it was a loss, it was one of the Caps’ better performances of late. However, there is one issue that fans have noticed over the last three years. That issue is the way the team plays coming off of long breaks. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
There wasn’t a bye week during the 2015-16 campaign but there was some controversy in the Capitals’ schedule during mid-January. The Caps were steamrolling the competition through their first 46 games. After a road win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday January 19, a massive snowstorm hit the DMV over the weekend of January 22-24 resulting in postponements of that Friday’s game against the Ducks and the following Sunday’s game with the Penguins. With that snowstorm, the Capitals went eight days without playing a game. They would come back later that month and fall to the Flyers in overtime on January 27 and then go on another break with the All-Star break.
The Caps fell to the Florida Panthers in their first game after the All-Star break but would go on to win five games in a row, drop their sixth, and then go on to win four in a row. Towards the tail-end of the regular season. the Capitals’ four of their final five games made fans nervous for the ensuing playoff grind ahead.
The 2016-17 season was the first time the NHL implemented and required a bye week for each of the 30 teams. For the Capitals, that bye week came from February 12-17 right off a thrilling 6-4 win over the Ducks with Zach Sanford’s game-winning goal coming late in the third. Like this season, the Capitals had back-to-back games. The difference was both games were on the road, in Detroit and New York (Rangers) and happened in under 24 hours (puck drop at Detroit was 2 p.m. while puck drop in New York was at 12:30 p.m. The Capitals lost both of those contests, the one in Detroit being in a shootout while the one to the Rangers was in regulation.
The Capitals would then go on a roll winning five of their next six games and continuing their hot home ice winning streak of 15 games, a franchise record. Then the Caps went in a bit of a slump dropping their next four games, all in regulation. After that slide, Washington won seven of their next eight and closed out the regular season winning four of their final six games.
January has been an odd month for the Capitals. Not only have they had a bye week and the upcoming break this weekend for the All-Star Game, they’ve also had a break of at least three or more days three times. Coming off the bye week, the Capitals are winless though they’ve only lost one regulation game and have picked up a point in both of their overtime losses. Washington fell to the Devils in overtime at New Jersey Thursday night then came back home and lost to the Montreal Canadiens in regulation the next night. The Capitals also fell to the Flyers Sunday afternoon in overtime. Before the All-Star break, the Capitals will be in Sunrise, Florida taking on the Panthers Thursday night, which will be their first game since Sunday’s matinee with the Flyers.
The Capitals are 1-0-1 so far in games after which they’ve had a break for three or more days in the month of January and 2-2-1 this season overall. Right now, it’s too early to tell how much this post-bye week swing will affect the course of this team. With a jam-packed Metropolitan Division, it’s important to keep a level of consistency to stay ahead of the pack. The Capitals will have two important division games right off the All-Star break against both of their Pennsylvania counterparts. It’s important that they come out of the gates strong.
After a Super Bowl Sunday matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights, the Caps will have another Metropolitan Division challenge awaiting them with back-to-back contests home-and-home against the Columbus Blue Jackets. In total, the Capitals will play 13 of their remaining 33 games after the All Star festivities against divisional opponents. Playoff seeding will be at stake and if you want to prepare for playoff hockey, it would be best to take these 13 contests seriously.
By Michael Marzzacco