Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
After the 2021-22 NHL regular-season schedule was released on Thursday evening, there are plenty of Washington Capitals games to look forward to this upcoming season as they have not played 25 teams in over a year and a half by the time the puck drops (if ever). NoVa Caps lists 10 home games to look forward to the most for this season.
Wednesday 10/13 vs. New York Rangers
The Capitals will have a full house at Capital One Arena for the first time since March 4, 2020, on opening night. There were plenty of fireworks between the two teams last season as they combined for six fighting majors in the first 4:14 in their most recent meeting on May 5 at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers, who will make their lone stop to Washington this season, are also expected to take a big step this season with their young talent developing and after making a big sprint towards the finish line in 2020-21.
Saturday 10/16 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
The back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions play the Capitals for the first time since August 3, 2020, when the two teams played in the Eastern Conference round-robin tournament. The Lightning are expected to look different this season due to salary cap constraints but will still likely be a top team with Conn Smythe-winning (tournament MVP) goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, the leading point scorer in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs in right-wing Nikita Kucherov, and the leading goal scorer in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs in center Brayden Point still around. When these two teams have played recently, the games have been heavy, high-scoring affairs between two of the Eastern Conference’s best. The Lightning will also come to the District on Wednesday, April 6.
Tuesday 10/19 vs. Colorado Avalanche
In the final game of a season-opening three-game homestand, Washington hosts former Capital left wing Andre Burakovsky, center Nathan MacKinnon, and the 2021 Presidents’ Trophy winners to town. Former Capitals goaltender Philipp Grubauer, a pending unrestricted free agent but will likely stay in Colorado, will also return for the first time since he finished third in Vezina Trophy voting as the league’s top goaltender last season. The Avalanche are also expected to have some roster turnover this offseason but will likely still be a powerhouse with one of the NHL‘s best farm systems.
Wednesday 10/27 vs. Detroit Red Wings
The two teams face off for the first time since last season’s blockbuster trade that saw them exchange left-wingers Anthony Mantha (Capitals) and Jakub Vrana (Red Wings), who won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018 and will return to Capital One Arena for the first time and lone one in 2021-22. The Red Wings’ rebuild is progressing under GM Steve Yzerman with numerous high draft picks this season and after acquiring goaltender Alex Nedelkjovic from the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Mantha will return to Detroit for the first time with the Capitals on Thursday, November 11.
Wednesday 11/24 vs. Montreal Canadiens
Goaltender Carey Price and the Clarence Campbell Bowl Champions visit the District for the lone time this season in the Capitals’ annual Wednesday before Thanksgiving game. Center Philipp Danault (pending unrestricted free agent) may be gone and captain Shea Weber will not play this season but players like Price (who will hopefully be back from knee surgery that will cause him to miss the start of the season), center Nick Suzuki, right-wing Cole Caufield, and right-wing Josh Anderson will still make this team a top one in the Eastern Conference.
Sunday 1/16 vs. Vancouver Canucks
Barring a trade, 2018 Stanley Cup Champion goaltender Braden Holtby will face the Capitals for the first time since signing with the Canucks as an unrestricted free agent on October 9, 2020. After sitting out the first five periods of the team’s run to the Stanley Cup in 2018 to Philipp Grubauer, Holtby, who ranks second among the Capitals’ all-time wins leaders, went 16-7 with a .923 save percentage, a 2.16 goals-against average, and two shutouts, including back-to-back whitewashes in Games 6 and 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. Holtby’s name has been mentioned in trade rumors and there are teams interested but until that happens, he is still a Canuck.
Monday 1/24 vs. Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights, who have lost in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past two seasons, visit D.C. for the only time this season in a rematch of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, where the Capitals defeated Vegas in five games to win the Stanley Cup for the first time. Since the Capitals and Golden Knights last saw each other, the team has acquired goaltender Robin Lehner and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo while defenseman Shea Theodore has established himself as one of the game’s top blueliners. They also feature right-wing Mark Stone and left-wing Max Pacioretty. Center Chandler Stephenson, who won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals, will return to Washington for the first time since the team dealt him to the Golden Knights on December 2, 2019.
Monday 2/28 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The North Division regular-season champion Maple Leafs and reigning Maurice Rocket Richard winner Auston Matthews, who led the NHL with 41 goals in 2020-21, will take on the Capitals for the first time this season. With Matthews, right-wing Mitch Marner, and right-wing William Nylander in their prime, the Maple Leafs should only get scarier. The Maple Leafs will also come to Washington on Sunday, April 24. This will be the Capitals’ first home game after the 2022 Winter Olympic break.
Thursday 3/4 vs. Hurricanes
The Hurricanes, who took a huge step in their development in 2020-21 when they finished first in the Central Division and third in the NHL with 80 points, will visit Washington for the first time this season. The Hurricanes are expected to be a favorite to win the Metropolitan Division with center Sebastian Aho, left-wing Teuvo Teravainen, right-wing Andrei Svechnikov, and defenseman Jaccob Slavin as their core. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton will likely leave in free agency but the Hurricanes should still be a top team. The Hurricanes will also play in Washington on Monday, March 28.
Tuesday 3/15 vs. New York Islanders
Former Capitals head coach Barry Trotz and the Islanders will come to town for the first time this season. The Islanders, who also come to Washington on Tuesday, April 26, have fallen to the Lightning in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past two seasons.
Other Notable Home Games
- Sunday, November 14 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins – first-time captains Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin clash this season; Penguins will also visit town on Friday, December 10
- Friday, November 26 vs. Florida Panthers – annual Black Friday home game against a Panthers team that took a huge step in 2020-21
- Monday, January 10 vs. Boston Bruins – first time that the Capitals and Bruins face-off since the Bruins eliminated the Capitals in Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series
- Wednesday, February 2 vs. Edmonton Oilers – reigning Art Ross Trophy (NHL’s top scorer) and Hart Trophy (MVP) winner Connor McDavid and the Oilers come to Washington for the lone time this season; last game before Olympic break
- Saturday, March 5 vs. Seattle Kraken – first time the NHL’s 32nd franchise visits the nation’s capital; Vitek Vanecek returns to Washington for first time since being selected in 2021 NHL Expansion Draft as the Kraken’s pick from the Capitals
By Harrison Brown