August 9, 2022

Caps in Advance: Week 2

Coming off a closer-than-comfortable OT win over the Hurricanes on Saturday night, the Caps look to continue their winning ways during the first full week of the regular seasons. Three games are on tap…

Games this week:

MONDAY, OCTOBER 10 V. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
7:00 pm, Verizon Center
TV: Versus, CSN-DC

Records:
Washington Capitals: 1-0-0
Tampa Bay Lightning: 1-1-0
Season Series: 0-0-0

Last Year:
Capitals 48-23-11, 107 pts, 1st in Southeast Division, 1st in Eastern Conference
Lightning 46-25-11, 103 pts, 2nd in Southeast Division, 5th in Eastern Conference

Although the Capitals won the franchise’s fourth consecutive Southeast Division title, the division was led for most of the season by the resurgent Lightning.

In 2010-11, under new GM Steve Yzerman and new head coach Guy Boucher, the Lightning had a dominant season with Steven Stamkos scoring 45 goals and old-timer Martin St. Louis potting 99 points, a Hart Trophy nomination, and the Lady Byng Award.

More importantly for Caps fans, Tampa’s prized mid-season acquisition, goalie Dwayne Roloson, returns. Roloson stonewalled Washington last year, shutting them out twice in a 9-day span in January and backstopping Tampa’s dominating playoff sweep of the boys in red, white, and blue.

Tampa has a new logo on their jerseys and some new faces in 2011-12. Gone are Cap-killer Sean Bergenheim and Simon Gagne. Yzerman didn’t make any major additions in their place, preferring to show faith in the team’s role-players and prospects.

Although the first meeting between the division foes comes just a few days into the season, Tampa Bay will be in the middle of a five-game season-opening road trip that has already taken them to Raleigh and Boston. While the Lightning won’t be exhausted, they’ll have to avoid looking ahead to their own home opener next week.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 13 V. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
7:00 pm, Consol Energy Center
TV: NHL Network, CSN-DC

Records:
Washington Capitals: 1-0-0
Pittsburgh Penguins: 2-0-1
Season Series: 0-0-0

Last Year:
Penguins 49-25-8, 106 pts, 2nd in Atlantic Division, 4th in Eastern Conference

Despite missing Sidney Crosby for half a season, despite missing Evgeni Malkin for half a season, the Pittsburgh Penguins won 49 games (one more than the Caps, it’s worth nothing) and finished in the top half of the Eastern Conference before losing a seven-game first round playoff series to the Lightning.

This season Malkin seems healthy and Crosby appears to be within a few weeks of a return, so it’s no surprise the Penguins are a chic pick by many to win the Stanley Cup. The team lost super-pest Maxime Talbot and grinder Mike Rupp to free agency and ephemeral sniper Alexei Kovalev to the KHL. In their place Steve Sullivan was signed to play left wing on the first line and quarterback the powerplay alongside Norris candidate Kris Letang. Make no mistake though, the Pens’ major offseason “acquisitions” were the returns of Malkin and (soon) Crosby.

The Pens opened their regular season with a shootout win in Vancouver, with Matt Cooke putting a PPG and SHG past Roberto Luongo. Malkin looked healthy in that game as well as the Pens’ next, but was scratched for their third game on Sunday, suggesting there’s more than meets the eye with his recovery from leg surgery.

In more altruistic news, both the Caps and Pens will wear commemorative patches honoring Lokomotiv Yaroslavi and will then auction off the game jerseys, with proceeds benefiting the families of the deceased Lokomotiv players.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 15 V. OTTAWA SENATORS
7:00 pm, Verizon Center
TV: CBC, CSN-DC

Records:
Washington Capitals: 1-0-0
Ottawa Senators: 0-2-0
Season Series: 0-0-0

Last Year:
Senators 32-40-10, 74 pts, 5th in Northeast Division, 13th in Eastern Conference

The only direction is up for the Senators, who were in the league cellar from start to finish and had their head coach, Cory Clouston, fired at the end of the season.

Taking over behind the bench is Paul MacClean, who directs a roster that was gutted at the trade deadline. GM Brian Murray essentially dealt away Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly, Jarko Ruutu, Alexei Kovalev, and Chris Campoli for picks, and swapped goalie Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson.

Anderson was a positive point for the Senators, and is a focus of the rebuilding effort. The new-look Sens added a few role players in free agency and nabbed Mika Zibanejad 6th overall in the 2011 Entry Draft, but Ottawa is at the start of a painful process and this game is Washington’s first opportunity to demonstrate their ability to put away a lesser team.

Through two games, against the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, the Senators scored 8 goals but allowed 11 strikes, and Washington will look to keep up that second average while keeping down the first.

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