Photo: Associated Press
On Sunday night, the Washington Capitals will march into southern Philadelphia for one final clash with the Flyers before the conclusion of the regular season. While there is plenty to talk about going into Sunday’s game, such as who the Caps’ starting goaltender will be and the condition of Evgeny Kuznetsov, today we’ll be taking a look at the road remaining after the Capitals’ last visit to the city of brotherly love. So, what exactly is in store for the Washington Capitals in their final ten games?
Tuesday, March 20
vs Dallas Stars @ Capital One Arena
Dallas’ Record: 38-26-8
The Dallas Stars are a team that Washington has struggled against in recent seasons. Despite this, the two clubs have a mixed bag of wins and losses. Washington’s all-time record against Dallas is 47-48-1. As of now, Dallas is clinging to the Western Conference’s second Wild Card spot. But with teams like the Anaheim Ducks and the Calgary Flames looming not too far out of reach, Dallas will be looking to earn every point they possibly can to distance themselves from the teams behind them as the regular season comes to a close. The general consensus from Texas media suggests that the Stars are trending in a downward direction. They’re shooting stars, if you will. Couple this with the resurgence of Washington’s T.J. Oshie and the recent improved performances from a large number of Capitals players, and one can imagine Dallas will come out looking for a fight on Tuesday. Let’s hope when all is said and done on Tuesday, the onslaught the Caps brought to the New York Islanders will have continued, and we’ll send the guys in green back to Texas, seeing stars.
Thursday, March 22
vs Detroit Red Wings @ Little Caesars Arena
Detroit’s Record: 26-34-11
The Detroit Red Wings are currently sitting in 28th place in the league standings, and their chances to qualify for the playoffs have been all but dismissed. That’s not to say that the Wings aren’t going to take it easy on the Caps. With a total of 63 points tallied so far this season, the Red Wings will be looking to add to that before their season ends. On March 16, the Red Wings racked up an eighth consecutive loss against the Los Angeles Kings. And with two games separating that loss from their game with Washington, one can imagine Detroit is going to step it up and try to redeem themselves from this downward spiral they’re currently in. With players like Anthony Mantha, who leads the team in goals with 23, and Dylan Larkin, who leads them in assists with 41, the Detroit Red Wings are not to be taken lightly despite their difficult season. The Capitals have an all-time record of 65-45-5 against Detroit.
Saturday, March 24
vs Montreal Canadiens @ Bell Centre
Montreal’s Record: 26-33-12
They may have signed longtime Caps defenseman Karl Alzner last offseason, but the Montreal Canadiens have struggled this season, including four losses in their last five games. Like Detroit, however, they are not a team to dismiss lightly. They have an incredible goaltender in Carey Price guarding the crease, and while many argue that his best games are behind him, it is dangerous for anyone to not consider him a threat. He’s earned himself a shutout this year. That being said, with Washington’s offense starting to really heat up, and the Habs struggling the way the have, this particular matchup will more than likely come down to goaltending, which has been a hot button issue for the Capitals as well. Will we see Price vs Holtby or Price vs Grubauer?
Monday, March 26 and Wednesday, March 28
vs New York Rangers in a “Home & Home” contest @ Madison Square Garden and Capital One Arena
New York’s Record: 32-32-7
Prior to the trade deadline last month, it was obvious to most people that the New York Rangers were preparing to undergo a rebuilding phase. That became even more clear when they cleaned house, so to speak, at the deadline. They traded away many key players including Rick Nash, Nick Holden, and even their captain, Ryan McDonagh. They got, in exchange, Ryan Spooner and Robert O’Gara from the Boston Bruins, to name a few, and numerous draft picks to help boost themselves up for the start of the 2018-20 season. Despite this, the pieces they have in play with now seem to be helping steer the Rangers in a better direction, having balanced their win-loss ratio. When Washington last squared off against the Rangers, it was a completely different team than the one it is today. It will be interesting to see how the Caps fair against this team mid-transition. So far, the regular season series is tied 1-1, with the Caps pulling away with the win on their first meeting back in December, and the Rangers winning in a shootout a month later in what was otherwise a scoreless game.
Friday, March 30
vs Carolina Hurricanes @ Capital One Arena
Carolina’s Record: 30-29-11
The Carolina Hurricanes are a team who haven’t quite earned a spot in the playoffs yet, but can’t be counted out either. They trail the New Jersey Devils by nine points, the Devils having the second Eastern Conference Wild Card spot. It’s a tall order for them, especially with the Florida Panthers only trailing New Jersey by three points and continuing to rally themselves. But as they say, anyone can beat anyone on any given night. And that’s why this game against a mid-tier Metropolitan Division opponent is so important. The Capitals currently sit atop the division with an impressive 89 points. The ‘Canes have had a hard time when it comes to play between the pipes this season, and captain Jordan Staal is currently out of action on bereavement. With key components missing as of late, the Hurricanes are going to have a hard time fighting back as the Capitals continue to turn up the heat. But again, it would be foolish to count out any team; especially one who isn’t out of playoff reach just yet.
Sunday, April 1
vs Pittsburgh Penguins @ PPG Paints Arena
Pittsburgh’s Record: 41-26-5
I can think of no more appropriate team to face off against on April Fools Day than a team led by Sidney Crosby. But in all seriousness, the Capitals’ admirable adversaries have proven once again that they are THE team to beat. Every time the Capitals and the Penguins face off, good old-fashioned hockey is sure to ensue. The two teams definitely bring out the best (and worst) in the other, and this matchup in particular may very well decide who finishes first in the division. Despite their rough start, the Pens have found their footing and have come out of dead last in the division to jockey for the lead back and forth with the Caps for some time now. Right now, the Penguins lead the season series 2-1. Here’s to hoping the Caps can tie the series and leave Pittsburgh having made them out to be a team of April Fools.
Monday, April 2
vs St. Louis Blues @ Scottrade Center
St. Louis’ Record: 37-28-5
Much like the Hurricanes, the St. Louis Blues have a mixed bag of results this season but aren’t out of the picture just yet. They trail the aforementioned Dallas Stars by only five points, and by the time this game comes around, they could have already knocked the Stars out of their Wild Card spot. With players like Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Pietrangelo, the Blues have the components to be a dangerous playoff contender. Tarasenko has 58 points thus far this season (27 goals, 31 assists), and is someone the Capitals’ defense will have to watch out for during this game. Despite not necessarily being a household name outside of St. Louis, Jake Allen has a decent Save Percentage of .907, or roughly 91%. But the Capitals usually have the upper-hand against the Blues, as they have an all-time record of 55-40-1. Hopefully, Alex Ovechkin’s famous slapshot isn’t among the 9% of pucks Allen is able to stop.
Thursday, April 5
vs Nashville Predators @ Capital One Arena
Nashville’s Record: 47-14-10
Nashville has the second-best record in the league this season, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning. And they are decidedly the best team in the Western Conference to date, pacing the second-place Vegas Golden Knights by nine points. Much like the Caps’ final matchup against Pittsburgh, this last round against the Preds is going to be a difficult one. Top-notch players like Pekka Rinne and P.K. Subban will keep the entire Capitals roster on their toes all night. By this time, it should be decided who the Capitals’ starting goalie will be going into the playoffs, and that selection has one more very difficult task in front of them in the Predators before the Cup hunt officially begins. As mentioned before, as of today, Nashville is the only team who has clinched a spot in the playoffs. On April 5, I’m sure they’ll show why they were the first team to earn a spot. But by then, the Caps will have undoubtedly landed their spot too. This matchup is going to be a small taste of what Washington may face if they were to… I don’t want to jinx them, but if they were to do what they haven’t been able to do in quite some time.
Saturday, April 7
vs New Jersey Devils @ Capital One Arena
New Jersey’s Record: 37-36-8
The Capitals end the regular season with Devante Smith-Pelly hosting his former team, the New Jersey Devils and former Washington Capital Marcus Johansson. The Devils came out of the gates hot right from the start of the preseason. But after Christmas, they cooled down quite a bit. They are currently third in the Metropolitan Division behind the Capitals and the Penguins, but they’ve put in work to get there, having recently been locked into the Eastern Conference’s first Wild Card spot for some time. As their win-loss record shows, they’ve had a fairly positive season, but show room for improvement. Regardless, this final showdown of the regular season will be between two hungry Metropolitan Division rivals, and the Capitals will be looking to pick up a nice win to enter the playoffs riding a nice wave of momentum. The problem is, the Devils will be looking to do the same, and with players like Taylor Hall, Johansson, and rookies Will Butcher and Nico Hischier, New Jersey has the means to walk away with the victory. But not if the Washington Capitals have anything to say about it.
And that just about sums up the remainder of the regular season. What teams do you think will be the Capitals’ biggest threats? Which ones are you looking forward to the most? Do you think the Caps will entire the playoffs with some wins under their belt, or will they have to work things out in the first round? Sound off in the comments section below, and always, stay tuned to NoVa Caps for the latest Washington Capitals News.
By: Chris Laroche