Do you remember last year? I remember last year. Do the Washington Capitals remember last year? The New York Rangers remember last year.

It has finally arrived. Washington Capitals’ regular-season gameday. Puck drop is at 7:30pm EST and they are taking on none other than their most recent nemesis, the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 03: Tom Wilson #43 of the Washington Capitals takes a roughing penalty during the second period against Artemi Panarin #10 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on May 03, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

If you don’t remember what happened, let me break it down for you real quick (I also broke it down when it happened in this re:CAP).

Last year, they took this rivalry to new and extreme heights when what it simply known as “the Tom Wilson incident” took place. Noted hated person, Tom Wilson, punched Pavel Buchnevich while he was down and proceeded to rag doll noted smaller person, Artemi Panarin. This sent the NHL and its fans into a frenzy I haven’t quite experienced before, with people from all walks of life calling for Wilson to be banned from the NHL. Even some veteran journalists of the sport wrote very unbiased articles about why Wilson should be banned from the NHL for “nearly killing” Panarin (*cough* Larry Brooks *cough*).

The outrage and anger only grew worse when it was announced the following day that Tom Wilson was not banned from the league. In fact, he wasn’t even banned for a game. He was fined $5,000 for roughing Buchnevich. This, as you can probably imagine, went over about as well as asking a blind dog for directions.

The Rangers themselves released an unprecedented statement about the incident. In the now infamous statement, definitely not Rangers’ owner, James Dolan, claimed that they were disappointed in the league’s decision to not suspend Wilson after his “horrific acts of violence.” They went on to call for the job of the Head of the Department of Player Safety, George Parros, when they stated that not suspending Wilson was a “dereliction of duty” and that they feel he is “unfit to continue in his current role.”

The statement released by the New York Rangers after the Tom Wilson incident

After the statement was released, both GM, Jeff Gorton, and President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson, were fired. It is highly debated as to whether or not they were fired as a result of distancing themselves from the statement or if it was because the team wasn’t meeting expectations. I would hate to call anybody a liar, but if you claimed it was the latter, you’re probably a liar.

The statement nabbed the Blueshirts a $250,000 fine for calling out a league front-office member. Of course, as we all know, the next game, which was two days later, was a bloodbath which saw six fights (mostly won by the Capitals) in the first period and Buchnevich be suspended one game for a flying crosscheck to the face of Anthony Mantha. The Rangers didn’t truly have anybody to take on Wilson after his demolition of the team in the previous game, so they rectified that tenfold this offseason.

Since then, the Rangers added Wilson’s nemesis in the public eye, Ryan Reaves, Barclay Goodrow, Sammy Blais and Jarred Tinordi. Was adding players with a physical reputation a direct result of Tom Wilson? Again, people speculate yes, while others speculate no. I would hate to call anybody a liar, but if you claimed it was the latter, you’re probably a liar.

That brings us to today’s game. What will happen? Only time will tell, but Gary Bettman will be in attendance so that means something. However, Wilson doesn’t believe much should come from last year’s dumpster fire. He said earlier today that “having a big, physical first night with the Rangers isn’t where we want to be this year. We have a lot of goals.”

So, let’s give tonight’s game a look.

The Capitals have narrowed their roster down to 23 men and had what appear to be the lines for tonight’s game rolling in the morning skate.

Today’s lines courtesy of @SamanthaJPell of The Washington Post

With Nicklas Backstrom being placed on LTIR, it appears that Hendrix Lapierre will be making his NHL debut after an impressive preseason and training camp. The Capitals’ first-round pick in 2020 NHL Entry Draft had 5 assists for 5 points in 4 preseason games and has earned the third-line centre position for opening night over 2019 first-round pick, Connor McMichael.

Alex Ovechkin has considered himself a game-time decision after fully participating in the morning skate. Ovechkin hadn’t taken to the ice since leaving the Capitals’ final preseason game against the Philadelphia Flyers in the first period when he bumped into Travis Konecny and tweaked something in his lower body.

Although he is a game-time decision, most of us are pretty confident he will suit up for game one of the season. It is an important season for himself as it’s the first year of his five-year contract extension, and with that, the first game in his true pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s goal record. Ovi sits at 730 goals; 164 back of Wayeno’s 894 goals.

In more surprising news, Vitek Vanecek has earned the starting position for game one over heavy-favourite, Ilya Samsonov. Head Coach, Peter Laviolette, claimed that Vanecek “separated himself a little bit,” and went on to say, “for that, he gets the opportunity to start.” This is surprising as Samsonov had shown himself to be the #1 goaltender in most fans’ eyes by the end of last year’s postseason. However, it appears the battle for the starting position will continue this year.

Also worth noting is that, with Michal Kempny having been sent down to the Hershey Bears, it seems that, for now, Stat Guy Blake’s favourite player, Martin Fehervary, has earned himself a spot in the Caps’ defensive rotation. General Manager, Brian MacLellan, had hinted that Marty was ready to make the jump earlier in the offseason, but now it has been confirmed.

Game 1 of 82 has all the excitement and anticipation of a Stanley Cup Playoff game, so let’s see if it delivers and we have UFC on ice for the second Caps/Rangers game in a row. Puck drops at 7:30pm EST.

Betting Odds

If you plan to bet on either the Capitals or the Rangers money line tonight, bet NOW because both teams are -110 and the odds of it staying this way are slim. The over is set at O6.0 with -125 odds, and the under is set at U6.0 with +125 odds. The Capitals’ puck line is set at -1.5 and +200 odds. Gamble responsibly you beautiful bunch of degenrates.

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