It is that time of year again for the Washington Capitals. The NHL schedules are never easy, and sometimes lengthy road trips are the nature of the beast. On Tuesday, the Capitals will embark on a lengthy 6-game road trip that will take them across North America.
On Tuesday evening, the Capitals will begin their road trip against a tough Columbus Blue Jackets club. After their quick stop in Columbus, the Capitals will head to California for a 3-game swing. After their short stay in California, the Capitals will return to the Northeast for their two final games against Toronto and Buffalo.
This road trip is packed for the Capitals, as they will play six games in twelve nights.
METROPOLITAN DIVISION HEAVYWEIGHTS
To kick off the road trip, the Capitals will face the Blue Jackets, who have been a thorn in their side.
The Capitals and Blue Jackets last faced off in Washington D.C. on January 12. The Blue Jackets came away with a 2-1 overtime victory, in which the Blue Jackets made a little bit of mockery of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s “bird” goal celebration.
Entering Monday, the Blue Jackets are just two points behind the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division standings. The Jackets have one game in hand on the Capitals, so this game is very important with both clubs neck-and-neck in the standings.
After the Capitals kick things off in Columbus, they will fly to northern California to face the San Jose Sharks. Entering Monday, the Sharks are on a roll. They are second in the Pacific Division, and winners of five straight games.
After visiting the Shark Tank on Thursday evening, the Capitals will head to Anaheim and Los Angeles for a back-to-back slate next Sunday and Monday.
Anaheim and Los Angeles are both in the Western Conference basement, so these games are important for the Capitals to try and gather points. The Ducks recently fired Head Coach Randy Carlyle and GM Bob Murray will coach behind the bench for the remainder of the season. Anaheim and Los Angeles are struggling to find goal scoring this season, but the Capitals have struggled in recent years to come up with wins in southern California.
FINISHING UP IN THE ATLANTIC
The Capitals will fly back east from California, and will conclude their road trip with stops in Toronto and Buffalo.
The Capitals last visited Toronto on January 23 and were thumped 6-3 in that game. Toronto is in the second spot in the Atlantic Division race, behind Tampa Bay.
After the stop in Toronto, the Capitals will venture a little south of the border to face Buffalo. The Capitals last saw the Sabres twice at home in December, and came away with a pair of victories. The Sabres are currently just outside the playoff bubble, so they will present a challenge for the Capitals because they are in desperate need of points.
POINTS ARE A MUST
In the middle of a tight Metropolitan Division race, the Capitals cannot afford to come up empty-handed on their six-game road trip.
The Capitals must have good outings, especially in southern California where they tend to struggle to earn points. There is plenty of incentive for the Capitals to perform well against Columbus and Toronto, who handed them losses the last time they squared off.
At the very least, the Capitals have the chance to break even on this road trip. If the Capitals can manage at least four wins on this tough road trip, it will likely be considered a success to most.
By: George Foussekis