Two weeks after they lifted the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, the Capitals get their first peek ahead at the long road of defending the Cup title. On Wednesday, Washington revealed its opening night, banner-raising game against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 3. Today, the Caps and the NHL lifted the curtain on the 81 games that will follow.
At first glance, the biggest difference between the upcoming 2018-19 schedule and last season's slate is a decrease in one-game road trips, a scourge for Washington in recent seasons. In 2017-18, the Caps made 19 one-game road trips, accounting for nearly half of their 41 road games. This season's slate will have only 11 or 12, depending on how the Caps opt to handle the travel on some of the trips.
Accompanying that shift will be a greater number of longer trips. Washington had five trips of at least three games in length last season, and it will take at least seven such journeys in 2018-19.
Here is a look at some of the highlights and some of the more interesting elements that stood out to us in a first look at the Caps' slate for 2018-19:
· The Caps will host the Vegas Golden Knights - Washington's opponent in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final - at Capital One Arena in the second home game of the season. With an 8 p.m. start time, this one is an NBCSN Rivalry Night contest.
· The Capitals will open the season with two sets of back-to-back games, with a five-day gap in between them.
· Three of the Caps' first five home games are on a Wednesday and four of their first six road games are on a Thursday.
· Washington's first extended road trip is its annual late-October journey through western Canada from Oct. 22-27.
· Washington has a five-game homestand in early November, playing every other night from Nov. 3-11.
· The Caps will feature traditional home games on the night before American Thanksgiving against Chicago (Nov. 21) and the afternoon following against Detroit (Nov. 23). The team will then depart for New York, where it will spend the remainder of the holiday weekend facing the Rangers on Saturday afternoon (Nov. 24) and the Islanders on Monday night (Nov. 26).
· Washington makes its lone visit to Vegas on Dec. 4 to start a three-game road trip.
· Buffalo comes to Capital One Arena twice in less than a week in mid-December, supplying the opposition on the front and back ends of a three-game homestand. Similarly, the Caps spend consecutive Saturday nights (Dec. 22 and 29) in Ottawa in late December, a pair of one-game journeys wrapped around the NHL's holiday break (Dec. 24-26) with a home game against Carolina (Dec. 27) in between.
· Washington hosts a New Years Eve game - a matinee against Nashville - in the District for the first time since 2005, Alex Ovechkin's rookie season in the league. Ovechkin scored a pretty one that afternoon in a 4-3 win over Philadelphia, his 23rdgoal of that season and of his NHL career.
· The Caps finish out the first half of the season with a three-game road trip Jan. 3-6. Once they return home from Detroit late on the night of Jan. 6, they'll spend 31 of the next 35 nights in their own beds.
· Washington will have a lengthy break in late January for the NHL's All-Star Game - which will be held in San Jose - and the Caps' bye week. The Caps play at Toronto on Jan. 23, and won't play again until Feb. 1 when they open up a season high six-game homestand from Feb. 1-11.
· That Jan. 6 game against Detroit will conclude the Caps' season slate with the Red Wings as well, the first Eastern Conference team the Caps will be done with for the season.
· The Caps' longest road trip of 2018-19 is also six games in length, and it follows immediately after the longest homestand. When they come to Capital One Arena for the finale of the homestand against Los Angeles on Feb. 11, the Caps will be packed for that trip, a journey that starts in Columbus on Feb. 12.
· That long six-game trek ends in Buffalo on the afternoon of Feb. 23, and the Caps head home to host the New York Rangers the following afternoon (Feb. 24), so they'll face back-to-back situations at the start and at the conclusion of that long trip.
· Once the Caps move from Los Angeles to Toronto on the back half of that trip, they'll play the final 22 games of the schedule entirely within the Eastern Time Zone.
· Washington's March 1 road game against the Islanders will be played at the building formerly known as Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but now known as NYCB Live. The Caps' other road game against the Isles is at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Nov. 26.
· Both of Washington's road games against the Rangers are weekend matinee affairs, on Sat. Nov. 24 and Sun. March 2.
· Washington faces Philadelphia for the first time in 2018-19 on Jan. 8, the first game of the second half. The Caps will see the Flyers three times in a 10-game span in March, on March 6 and 14 in Philly and on March 24 in the District.
· The Caps won't see Tampa Bay for the first time in '18-19 until March 16 when they visit the Lightning in Tampa. Washington will then play three if its next eight games against the Bolts.
· The Caps' lone set of home-and-home games comes on March 26 and March 28, when they host and then visit, respectively, the Carolina Hurricanes.
· Washington's final road game of the season is at Florida on April 1, their lone visit to Sunrise in '18-19.
· Washington will play 13 afternoon games, seven at home and six on the road.
· The Caps will play a dozen sets of back-to-back games in 2018-19, with only four of those coming after the All-Star break and with just one set of games on consecutive nights over the season's final 41 days.
· Twenty of the Capitals' last 22 games will be played against Eastern Conference opponents, and 12 of their final 20 contests will be played against Metropolitan Division opponents. Nearly half of Washington's entire Metro workload (12 of a total of 28 games) comes in the final quarter of the season.
By the day:
Sunday: Six at home, four on the road.
Monday: Four at home, five on the road.
Tuesday: Six at home, six on the road.
Wednesday: Seven at home, three on the road.
Thursday: Three at home, 11 on the road.
Friday: Nine at home, four on the road.
Saturday: Six at home, eight on the road.
By the month:
October: Five at home, five on the road.
November: Eight at home, seven on the road.
December: Seven at home, six on the road.
January: Five at home, seven on the road.
February: Eight at home, six on the road.
March: Six at home, nine on the road.
April: Two at home, one on the road.