What’s up, Chirpin’ fam? With much excitement, hockey’s back and this week is the start of the very odd 56-game season. This NHL season is going to be done quite differently, for very obvious reasons. Not only is it a shortened season, but each team will only be facing their division. It’s also notable to mention the addition of the taxi squad that each team gets to acquire. With a maximum of 6 players per squad, they’re able to practice and travel with the team. Basically, they’ll be a fill-in if a player is unable to play. With that being said, the Washington Capitals are back in action with Peter Laviolette as their new head coach and some fresh additives to their roster. Considering the changes that have come into play with this upcoming season, the Caps are set to face each team in their division eight times. Between the Sabres, Flyers, Penguins, Bruins, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, and Capitals all being in the East division, it’ll be a tough race to a playoff spot, for sure.
I’m definitely going to miss the Caps vs. Canes rivalry, though, considering we live in their heads rent-free.
First up in this week’s matchup is Capitals @ Sabres on Thursday, January 14th, and Friday, January 15th. This matchup certainly hits close to home considering their last regular-season game of the 2019-2020 season was @ Sabres and ended in a slow, dreadful 3-2 S/O loss. The game went well into the 3rd period, scoreless on the Capital’s end, with shots by Olofsson and Eichel that got past Holtby in the 1st and 2nd. Finally, the Caps were able to get themselves on the board and tie the game up in the 3rd with goals by Ovechkin and Orlov. No dents were made in OT, so the game resulted in a shootout. Although Kuznetsov was able to snipe one past Ullmark, Dahlin and Kahun were able to get the puck past Holtby to end the game.
Moving forward into this season’s matchups against the Sabres, it’s important to take a look at their off-season signings.
Back in September, the Sabres acquired Eric Staal, who’s definitely a crafty veteran. Staal had 19 goals and 44 points within the 66-game season last year. Although he’s a veteran, he’s definitely one to still keep an eye on. Taylor Hall is also another dude that could definitely help out the Sabre’s this season. He moved around a bit last year between the Devils and Coyotes but produced 16 goals and 52 points within the regular season. Hall and Eichel being on the top line together will produce some damage, for sure.
The Capital’s record against the Sabres is 62-92-15.
The second matchup of the week is Capitals @ Penguins on Sunday, January 17th. As a Caps fan, everyone knows the special, special place the Penguins hold in our heart… not. After it was announced that Reirden was fired as the head coach for the Capitals, he shortly after was hired by Pittsburgh as an assistant coach and will oversee the defensive/power-play unit (LMAO). It’s quite ironic, though, considering our defense and power play were our absolute biggest flaws last season. As a way to say thank you so much for taking him off our hands, the Capital’s signed Conor Sheary and Justin Shultz. We just love to share each other’s sloppy seconds, I suppose, even though we definitely won in that exchange.
Looking back at last season, the Capitals and Penguins faced each other three times with a winning record of 2-1.
During the offseason, the Penguins didn’t resign Murray, meaning Jarry is their only notable goaltender going into this upcoming season. Not only did they also lose Sheary and Shultz, but it seems as if they didn’t sign anyone to 100% fill their shoes, either. Obviously, the Caps vs. Pens rivalry will always be a fun game to watch, and Ovi vs. Crosby will always be a hell of a matchup, as well. It’s still uncertain if this game will even happen, though. Last week, the Penguins had to shut down their training camp due to COVID complications.
The Capitals record against the Penguins is 128-152-16.
Overall, I’m very hopeful for this season ahead of us. I feel as if Laviolette checks off all of the boxes that Reirden couldn’t during his time with us. Laviolette’s aggressive, fast, and physical approach to the game is something that the Caps have lacked for the past couple of years. Although the Capitals are considered a much older, veteran team, I feel as if they still have a lot to prove of themselves. After last year’s appalling second half of the season, as well as being first-round exits in the playoffs two years in a row, my fingers are crossed that it isn’t another shit show.