Analyzing The Washington Capitals Schedule: The Early Season And October

ST. LOUIS, MO. - JANUARY 03: Blues players celebrate after scoring in the first period during an NHL game between the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues on January 03, 2019, at Enterprise Center, St. Louis, MO. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO. - JANUARY 03: Blues players celebrate after scoring in the first period during an NHL game between the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues on January 03, 2019, at Enterprise Center, St. Louis, MO. (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Washington Capitals have an interesting early start to the season.

You can’t win the Stanley Cup in October. That’s a pretty popular saying in the hockey world. It’s a popular saying in any sport really. Basically it’s telling people and fans to not overreact. You’re doing well now but there’s a long ways to go.

While it’s true and obvious you can’t win the Cup in October it’s of my opinion you can sure lose it. It seems to happen almost once a season in hockey. A team that has at the very least playoff expectations that gets off to a rough start and they get themselves buried in the standings and are unable to dig themselves out.

It happened last season with the Chicago Blackhawks. They had a Bad stretch at the beginning of the season, and yes, that is a capital B. From game eleven to game thirty-five they went 4-17-4. Chicago was able to right the ship for the majority of the season going 23-11-3 after that awful stretch but it didn’t matter, they were buried and done.

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The Columbus Blue Jackets also did it a few seasons ago and they did it even earlier. They were expected to be a playoff team for the 2015-16 season but started that season 2-10-0 including going 0-5-0 at home. They put themselves in too big of a hole early and never recovered.

That’s where our discussion here for the Capitals will start. The Caps are a playoff team out of the Metro division and definite Stanley Cup contender in the eastern conference. The regular season is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Don’t wear yourself out early but you can’t fall behind early.

For the rapidly approaching season the Capitals have a pretty up and down opening month. We should point out we never know how things will play out and how good teams will be. However, based on their play last season and their off-season moves we can take a half-educated guess.

The teams the Capitals have to play in October had a combined win percentage of .509%. Not the easiest but far from brutal.

The season starts in St. Louis where the Blues will hang their first Stanley Cup banner on national television. That game could go either way the way I see it. Two good teams going at it to start their season. The banner raising can really have two effects on a team though. It can pump them up to do it again or can distract them.

You have the last two Cup champions going at it. One who’s season ended on the highest note possible (Blues pun), and the other who’s season ended way too early. Should be a terrific game.

Then Washington has its first back to back of the season against in my eyes two very beatable teams. The  first is against the Islanders then the Caps go home to play their first home game vs the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season the Carolina Hurricanes.

I think the Islanders will take a step back this season so that game should be winnable. The game vs the Hurricanes is a must win. I know a must win that early? It’s the home opener against the team that knocked you out that you’re better than. You have to win that game. I’ve been saying how the Capitals shouldn’t have lost that series, you can’t follow that up with losing to the same team in your home opener.

All of those games are winnable. The Blues being the toughest but not an incredibly tough task. The next week could be tricky. A home game against an improved Dallas Stars team, tough game. Then going on the road to Nashville and then the other game against Dallas in the lone star state. That could be a tough week.

Get off to a bad start in your first three games and now you’re staring at a possibly losing streak to start the season. A good start will give you wiggle room and confidence.

The following week is interesting. The Caps will play some good teams but all on home ice. First against Andre Burakovsky and the Avalanche, then the high-powered Maple Leafs come to town followed by the rival Rangers, an up and coming team. All winnable at home, the toughest being the Leafs led by Auston Matthews and John Tavares.

A fun week though with Burakovsky returning to D.C. and the first look at high draft pick Kappo Kakko and Artemi Panarin in a Rangers sweater.

The Caps then finish the month on the road, some tough games, but the majority are not however. First stop is Chicago. Not really sure how good the Blackhawks will be. As we pointed out earlier they had an awful stretch last season but finished with a pretty respectable record. Still, this isn’t the Blackhawks of the early 2010’s, not a Cup contender really, should be a winnable.

Then the Caps head to their western Canada trip of the season. First stop is Calgary. I’m also expecting the Flames to take a step back, I’m just not sure how big that step will be, big or small? Still a good team and that’s a tough place to win.

The Capitals will then have another back to back against Edmonton then Vancouver. I have no idea what to expect out of Edmonton but I’m not anticipating much, that’s winnable. Vancouver is getting better by the year and they were in the playoff hunt for a lot of last season. You can’t walk all over them anymore, but that’s still another winnable game. It’s just the back to back that makes that game iffy.

The road trip and month gets finished off by visiting Toronto. That game to me has loss written all over it. It’s probably the toughest game of that five game trip and it’s at the end of it.

It’s tough to say how much a five game road trip will take out of a team. Eastern teams rarely have to face the six, seven or eight game road trips with a couple of back to backs western teams have but a five game road trip going coast to coast is still no joke.

There’s your opening month of games Caps fans. Not the hardest but some tough stretches in there. The most important part to me is the very start of the season. If the Caps go just 1-2 in their first three games issues could easily follow. You then have possibly really tough teams in Dallas, Nashville, Colorado and Toronto right after and could be headed for that dreaded bad start.

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I’ve said it once I’ll say it a million times, just don’t fall too far behind. You can play .500 hockey for months before you have to turn it on in late December or January. This schedule for the Capitals is not very bad and it gets even better in November with more home games and an even lower win percentage among opponents last season. We’ll dive into November when it’s a little closer.

The season is right around the corner, which early season game are you looking forward to?