Washington Capitals Vs. New Jersey Devils: Three Keys To Victory


Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

What should Capitals fans be keeping an eye on during tonight’s match up between the Washington apitals and the New Jersey Devils?

Tonight at 7:00PM EST, the Washington Capitals begin their 2015-2016 NHL season with a match against Metropolitan Divisional rivals, the New Jersey Devils. The Washington Capitals will be fighting hard to earn their first ‘W’.

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There will be plenty to inspect for fans looking to get their first glimpse of how the new roster will pan out now that the exhibition games are over. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in.

MORE FROM STARS AND STICKS: Caps vs. Devils Start Time And Broadcast Information 

Secondary Scoring

The key to success for the Capitals against the Devils as of late has been getting scoring help from our scorers who are not named Alex Ovechkin. Ovi only accounted for 2 of the 17 goals scored against the Devils last season.

With the additions of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, as well as the emergence of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky, Caps fans can feel confident that the team’s arsenal is sufficiently stockpiled.

What the Capitals have been hoping for since the re-structuring of the top two lines is that the potential to score is ever-present. That would give personnel match up nightmares for opposing coaches who now have to think about “shutting down” more than just Ovechkin.

When we’ve seen this type of scoring synergy in the past, the Capitals won the President’s Trophy for most points in the NHL. The Capitals should be able to run up the score on opponents and remain stingy on defense.

It would be foolish to overlook the potential stinginess of the New Jersey Devils. We’ve seen Cory Schneider bail his team out and frustrate opposing shooters before. An aggressive forecheck and a fast tempo to the game will be important towards unsettling the metronome-like Devils out of their rhythm. If they can, that will help to catch Schneider off-guard. That segues me to our next point.

Year 2 of the Barry Trotz System

While he coached the Nashville Predators for fifteen years, Barry Trotz’s squads that infuriated opponents in the playoffs by taking away opportunities for the other team. Part of this was a system of hockey that mimics the Los Angeles Kings’ style of puck-possession dominance. Another part was using a “defense first” mindset that eliminated a high percentage of chances for the other team to score.

Barry Trotz has not won a Stanley Cup with that strategy yet. Barry Trotz’s teams have never looked like the 2015-2016 Washington Capitals do. With a super star elite scorer and a slew of slick accomplices, the Capitals have serious firepower this year. Another year of impressing his system into his player’s heads will only make the entire system stronger.

Last season, we saw a great deal of roster juggling. The top right wing spot was a revolving door. Players were regularly in and out of lineups after poor performances in Trotz’ eyes. Rookies like Andre Burakovsky spent time watching the games instead of playing them from the press box. It wasn’t ideal. With a year of precedence for accountability sake under everyone’s belt, I think we see far less of the lineup juggling. That’s great because now we can start focusing on chemistry. The type of chemistry the team had under long time coach Bruce Boudreau which led to rostering seven 20+ goal scorers in their President Cup season.

Maintaining a Staunch Defense

The New Jersey Devils barely outshot the Capitals last season (142 to 137). The Capitals defense refused to give up shooting lanes from high-percentage scoring areas. The shots that weren’t blocked or deflected and made it through to Braden Holtby were of relatively-lesser danger. That will continue to be of utmost importance with the absence of Mike Green from the third pairing on defense.

Dmitry Orlov missed all of last season after sustaining a wrist injury in international tournament play. We’ll need to see immediate cohesiveness with Nate Schmidt tonight against the New Jersey Devils. The Capitals have hopefully ironed out the schemes and responsibilities of the tandem during the pre-season.

Braden Holtby will simply need to be his usual spectacular self and likely weather a penalty kill or two in that case. We saw last year that matches with New Jersey could turn into goaltending duels. Should it occur tonight, my faith in Holtby is sound. Beyond Patrik Elias, Mike Cammelleri and new-comer Kyle Palmieri, the scoring prowess on the Devils is a bit limited. A good non-complacency initiative by the Capitals should help ensure a victory.

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