Lost in all the football chaos is the return to hockey on the horizon. Soon enough, we will get our turn to full capacity arenas. Before that, however, we have to go through the preseason. For the Washington Capitals, they’ll play six games against three opponents but no opponent stands out more than the New Jersey Devils.
The Caps will also see the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers. So why is it the Devils games being the most important? I’ll explain.
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First off, while the Bruins matchup is a playoff rematch (well sort of), the Bruins are once again back to no longer being in the Caps division. The Caps have broken the Flyers since March. The Caps have also had the Devils number lately, sweeping the season series last year by winning all eight games.
Despite this recent success, this isn’t a Devils team the Caps should look past and they’ll learn that early before the season even starts by facing them in the preseason. This is a team that is still in the rebuilding phase but has reached that stage in the rebuilding process where they are ready to take the next step. That next step is making the playoffs or at least being a pest in the Metropolitan Division.
The Devils biggest splash this offseason was signing defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a seven year deal worth $63 million. They also acquired Ryan Graves via trade. Their goaltending got upgraded by signing Jonathan Bernier to a two year deal. Finally, they signed Tomas Tatar to give them some scoring punch.
The Devils also had two first overall picks in the span of three years. They drafted Nico Hischier in 2017 and in 2019 selected Jack Hughes. Hughes was second on the Devils in scoring with 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points.
So now that you know a little bit about the Devils, what about the Caps?
With the roster pretty much set based on offseason moves, or lack thereof, we know this is mostly going to be the same team going into this season as the team that bowed out in the first round last season. The only glaring difference comes in the defense.
After missing all of last season with a torn Achilles, Michal Kempny will be looking to make his return to the defense. With the departure of Brenden Dillon and the unlikely return of Zdeno Chara, look for Kempny and perhaps Martin Fehervary to occupy the left side of the defense.
You can catch the Capitals against the Devils on Wednesday September 29 at Capital One Arena and again Oct. 4 from Prudential Center.