Following their loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday, March 20 the Washington Capitals started a four-day break. Their next game is on Thursday, March 25 against the New Jersey Devils.
The Saturday loss ended the Capitals’ seven-game winning streak. This loss joined just six other losses for Washington this season. Four of the Capitals’ losses came from a losing streak in mid-February. Washington currently sits at second place in the Eastern Division, with a 20-7-4 record for 44 total points.
The Capitals certainly deserve a break after giving their best efforts in the past few weeks. Hopefully, they will return from the break well rested and ready to play good hockey. Here is a look into what is coming up for the Capitals after their break and what fans can expect from the team moving forward.
Up Next for Washington
The last month and a half of the regular season is a busy one for the Capitals. They are slated to play 25 games most of which will take place in two to three game series against one opponent. The Capitals have four two game mini-series that will be played on back to back nights, but most other games will be played on the normal every other day schedule.
The last 25 games are just as, if not more, important than the first 31. The Eastern Division remains tightly packed. The teams currently in the top four must fight to retain their spots as teams from the bottom four try to gain entrance to the playoffs.
Physicality and tenacity are always important in hockey and the remaining games are likley to escalate the necesity for both traits. At this point in the season, old rivalries have been rekindled and new rivalries have been formed. Teams playing eachother two to three times in a row also generates tensions that carry over between games. These grudges and the desire to best a rival will play out on the ice and create intense, heated hockey games.
The next Capitals game is against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday, March 25. Washington is undefeated through four games against the Devils this season, but the game is still worth watching. Both teams have smart forwards who make exciting plays and the games are usually decided by just one goal, making them fun to watch. Washington will play New Jersey again on Friday, March 26.
Any Changes for the Capitals?
It is unlikley that fans will see any major changes for Washington regarding roster moves or in-game strategy. The line-up that the Capitals have been using for most of the season has been effective in the past weeks both on offense and defense. Goaltending has also remained strong.
However, the Capitals do need to adress one issue. What will they do with all of their forwards? The orgaization has an abundance of skilled forwards on their roster, on the taxi squad, and playing with AHL affiliate Hershey.
Tom Wilson’s return to the Capitals on Saturday, March 20 allowed the team to return to the normal 12 forward, six defensemen lineup. T.J. Oshie was shifted from wing to center to cover the abscence of Washington center Lars Eller. Eller remains out for the Capitals with a day-to-day lower body injury.
Eller will, however, return sometime in the near future. This will leave the team with an improper 13 forwards. So what will head coach Peter Laviolette do?
Well, he dosen’t have very many options. He’s not going to move Alexander Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom to the taxi squad. T.J. Oshie, Jakub Vrana, Evgeny Kuznetzov, Tom Wilson and Lars Eller aren’t going anywhere either. He could break up the fourth line of Nic Dowd, Carl Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway, but they are an essential unit for the Capitals.
This leaves three players, all of whom have been important to the Capitals. Richard Panik and Connor Sheary both started on the roster for Washington this season. Daniel Sprong has been moved up from the taxi squad on a few occasions. Sheary and Sprong have both contributed goals for Washington in recent games and have made themselves known on the ice. Panik has not been as present on the scoresheet recently, but is often involved in offensive oppurtunities.
Laviolette has a difficult decision ahead of him when it comes to the Washington roster, but in terms of his team’s game play, he just need to keep doing what he has been doing this season.