It was a rough start to 2019 for the Washington Capitals. The defending Stanley Cup Champions played twelve games in January, and only won three of those games. The Capitals ended January with a seven-game losing streak.
Despite on a bad losing streak, the Capitals are still entering February in the second spot in the Metropolitan Division. Entering Monday, the Capitals are three points behind the first-place New York Islanders. The Capitals are one point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Metropolitan Division race is tight, so the Capitals cannot afford to stay in their current slump any longer.
When the Capitals return from their lengthy break, they will have a six-game homestand waiting for them. Let’s dive in to the upcoming homestand for the Capitals.
HEAVY DOSE OF THE WESTERN CONFERENCE
Four of the six games on this homestand are against teams from the Western Conference. Three out of the four teams are from the Pacific Division – Calgary, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. The other Western Conference team the Capitals will see is the Colorado Avalanche.
In 2018-19, the Capitals have struggled against the Western Conference clubs. The Capitals have an 8-10-3 record versus the West. They are 5-4-1 against the Pacific Division, and 3-6-2 against the Central Division.
The Capitals have not played well against the Western Conference this season, and they will be challenged immediately to kick off the homestand as they face the Calgary Flames on Friday evening. The Flames are currently sitting at the top of the Pacific Division. The Flames have an outstanding +45 goal differential, which is ranked second to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flames are coming to Washington on a three-game winning streak, and they are winners of eight of their last ten games. The Capitals defeated the Flames 4-3 in the shootout back in October.
Vancouver and Colorado are neck-and-neck in the Western Conference wild card race. Entering Monday, both clubs are tied with 52 points. The Avalanche have one game in hand on the Canucks. The Capitals defeated the Canucks and Avalanche earlier in the regular season.
Once Stanley Cup contenders a few years ago, the Los Angeles Kings have fallen to the bottom of the standings. Entering Monday, the Kings have 44 points. Only New Jersey and Ottawa have fewer points than the Kings in the standings.
SOME NON-PLAYOFF TEAMS IN THE MIX
Three of the six opponents are non-playoff teams. Vancouver, Florida, and Los Angeles are the clubs that are not currently inside the playoff bubble.
The Capitals defeated the Canucks 5-2 in Vancouver and lost to the Panthers 6-5 in the shootout back in October. The Capitals will see the Los Angeles Kings twice in a week during the month of February.
The Capitals had a lengthy break between the NHL All-Star Festivities and their bye week. Some of the Capitals ventured to tropical destinations, so they should be more relaxed when they return to the ice.
The Capitals have played a lot of hockey over the last year, so a little vacation away from hockey may not be a bad thing for the players and coaches. It was a memorable 2018 for the Capitals. While 2019 did not start the way the Capitals wanted, their mini-break should give everyone some time to rest up and recuperate. The Capitals need to kick off February on a high note, and a lengthy homestand should be able to jump start their run into the spring months.
By: George Foussekis