Breaking down the month of December for the Capitals

Dylan McIlrath, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Dylan McIlrath, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Thanks to an 8-3-1 record in the month of November, the Washington Capitals are in a good spot heading into the final month of 2023. While it isn’t the final month of the season, the Capitals look to use last month as a springboard of good things to come.

Last December the Capitals were brilliant. They went 11-2-2 in 15 games. We all know what happened after that month and this year’s team hopes to avoid that same fate. Thankfully on paper the Caps look much different than last year with a new coach and more youth players sprinkled in with the veteran core.

The December calendar features 14 games. The month starts with the final two games of the five game road trip they’re currently on. First up is the Vegas Golden Knights in Sin City on Saturday night, a team that sits in first place in the Pacific Division and are the defending Stanley Cup champions. While that provides a tough matchup, the Caps beat them last month with a 3-0 shutout behind Charlie Lindgren.

On Monday night the Caps road trip concludes in Arizona against the Coyotes. Then the Capitals return home for two games. First up is an 8:00 game on ESPN against the Dallas Stars, a team that’s second in the Central Division and always plays the Caps tough.

That two game home stretch concludes with the first of a back to back. First up is the New York Rangers on Saturday Dec. 9 who occupy first place in the Metropolitan Division. As of this writing before tonight’s slate of Friday night games, the Rangers have a seven point lead over the Caps. This contest also features the homecoming of Peter Laviolette who coaches against the Caps for the first time since both teams mutually agreed to part ways at the end of last season.

On Sunday Dec. 10 after an afternoon of NFL football, the Caps will go head to head at night against number one draft pick from this year Connor Bedard and the Chicago Blackhawks. After 3 days off the Caps head to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday Dec. 14.

While the Caps are in third place and just a point behind second place, the Flyers are one of two teams just behind them in the division standings with 24 points, just two points behind. So this is a big one.

That weekend of Dec. 16 and 17 features another back to back and both games are on the road. First up is the Nashville Predators and although their record is .500 their building is among one of the toughest to play in the NHL. The second leg of the back to back is a Sunday evening contest with the second place in the Metropolitan Division Carolina Hurricanes. That is a must win.

Following that there are three games just before the Christmas holiday break and yes the first two are another back to back. That other team that’s two points behind the Capitals is the New York Islanders and that’s first up on Dec. 20. The next night the Caps go to Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets.

The final game before the Christmas break is a home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. While they were once a power house that had back to back Cup titles, they are near the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Division at fifth place.

Following the break, the Caps are on the road for two games in New York. First up is the Rangers on Dec. 27 and then the Islanders on Dec. 29. That Islanders game is also the first of the back to back giving the Caps a total of FOUR back to back sets on the month (OK who’s idea was this?).

The month of December concludes with a home game on the 30th against the Predators which will conclude the 2023 portion of the schedule.

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Which game this month are you looking forward to? For me there’s two matchups that are intriguing. Those games against Laviolette’s Rangers are circled as is that road game against the Canes.