Photo: Knights On Ice
After the Washington Capitals‘ 7-2 blowout loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, the team has a record of 9-9-2 (.500 win percentage), including a record of 5-5-1 on the road, against Western Conference foes. The team turned in clunkers on back-to-back nights after falling to the St. Louis Blues 4-1 on Monday night and to the Predators last night.
In addition to their record against the Western Conference, they have been outscored 67-55 in games against Western Conference opponents for a goals-against average of 3.35 per game and a goals-for average of only 2.75 per game. Though, that drags down to a combined score of 54-50, when you exclude the games against the Predators this season.
A large part of the record is that the Capitals are 4-5-2 against Central Division, including five consecutive losses (0-4-1), which is a big reason why the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have won four consecutive games, have caught up to the Capitals in the standings. While the two are tied in points (59), the Blue Jackets have more regulation-overtime wins (28) than the Capitals have (24).
Overall, the team is 1-6-1 against the Western Conference since letting a 5-1 lead in the second period slip away, which they went on to lose 6-5 in regulation against the Anaheim Ducks at home on December 2. The lone win in that span came on December 6 in a 4-2 victory at the Arizona Coyotes.
Nine of the Capitals’ next 14 games come against Western Conference opponents, though five of them are at home. The team will face two Western Conference teams that they have yet to face this season (San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings) twice each in that span. While the Capitals have not played either team this season, those teams have given Washington fits in the past.
While the Capitals do not have a great record against the Western Conference, they own an impressive 18-5-3 record against the Eastern Conference, including a 9-3-2 record against their own division. They are 7-1-1 in their past nine against the Metropolitan this season.
Luckily for the Capitals, they just have 11 more games against teams in the Western Conference, including only two in March, when points matter the most. The Capitals’ final game against a Western Conference opponent will be on March 22 at home against the Minnesota Wild and their final road game in the Wild West will come on February 18 at the Los Angeles Kings, meaning that the Capitals only have four more pitstops in the West coast to make.
Teams from the West tend to play a heavier and more physical game, which doesn’t make for a lot of room for their opponents and Eastern Conference teams could have trouble adjusting to that style of play. While the Capitals are capable of playing that kind of game, the style with speed in the East better suits them. It is also easier to get motivated when you’re competing with the Eastern teams for playoff positioning, while you don’t have to worry about the Western Conference catching up to you until June, depending on how far you go in the playoffs.
After the Tampa Bay Lightning (74 points), the next five league-leaders are from the Western Conference and all five of them have won six of their past 10 games, which could explain why Washington is having issues with the Western Conference right now.
The Capitals will play 21 of their final 23 games against Eastern Conference opponents, but 13 of those will be on the road and the games will get a lot tighter with teams fighting for playoff positioning, let alone grabbing a spot in the playoffs.
The team will have to start winning some games against the Western Conference or else the games against the East are going to matter a lot more than they should, which isn’t ideal since we’re getting into the crunch time of the season after the All-Star Break.
By Harrison Brown