Oct. 17 vs. New York Rangers at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, FAN 106.7
New York Rangers 2-4-0
Washington Capitals 2-2-1
The Capitals continue their first extended homestand of the young season on Wednesday when they host the New York Rangers at Capital One Arena. The Caps will be looking to halt a two-game slide (0-2-0) while the Rangers will be playing their second game in as many nights.
Each of Washington's first five opponents was a playoff team last season, and three of the five advanced at least to the second round in the postseason. Given that the Caps played those five games as part of two sets of back-to-backs and that the last three contests were played in a span of four nights, the Caps can rightfully be satisfied with a 2-2-1 record in those games. But looking ahead now, the schedule takes a sharp turn in the Caps' favor, beginning with Wednesday's game against the Rangers.
Twice already this season, the Caps have been the "tired" team facing a "rested" team, and they went 0-1-1 in those games. On Wednesday, the table turns as the Caps are the rested team facing a Rangers squad that played at home on Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche, a contest that went into overtime before the Rangers prevailed in a shootout, 3-2.
"The schedule sometimes can be difficult, given certain situations," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "You have to take advantage of and realize what situations your own team is going through -- and sometimes the opponents as well - and maximize those opportunities.
"I think if you look at Game 1, for us obviously we're well rested and there is a lot of emotion. You look at our game against Vegas, we're rested and there is a lot of emotion in that game as well, and the results followed. I think that's been the early trend of our team, and I'm hoping that's going to be the case going into [Wednesday] against the Rangers as well."
With those two early back-to-backs out of the way, the Caps don't have another until mid-November. For the next two months, their schedule alternates multi-game homestands and multi-game road trips, which is how most players would prefer the schedule to roll out.
"We're looking forward to getting back to playing a regular schedule," says Caps winger Devante Smith-Pelly, "playing every other day or every two days, or something like that. The first two weeks were kind of tough, playing back-to-back and then having [five] days off. You want to play more and try to get the rhythm back after the summer, even though ours was short. So I think guys are looking forward to a more normalized schedule."
It will be up to the Caps to make the Rangers uncomfortable in playing for the second time in as many nights. A consistent and heavy forecheck can go a long way toward achieving that goal. Speaking of goals, some of those would be welcome, too. After pouring a franchise-record 18 pucks into opposing nets in their first three games of the season, the Caps have tallied only twice in the last two games.
"When we do what we're supposed to do," says Smith-Pelly, "like getting pucks in deep and forechecking - obviously we've got creative guys who can do other things - but when we're doing those things, we're going to get chances and eventually they're going to start going in."
New York will be finishing its second set of back-to-backs this season when it visits the District on Wednesday. The Blueshirts played their first set of back-to-backs entirely on the road, falling at Buffalo on Oct. 6 and at Carolina a night later.
Each of the Rangers' two victories to date came at home and against a Western Conference opponent, and both required more than 60 minutes to nail down. Prior to Tuesday's shootout win over Colorado, the Rangers earned an overtime victory over San Jose for their first victory of the season.
Last week's win over the Sharks was the first win in the NHL head coaching career of David Quinn, who left a plum gig at Boston University to try his hand at running an NHL bench. Quinn joins Philadelphia's Dave Hakstol (U. of North Dakota) and Dallas' Jim Montgomery (U. of Denver) as the third former NCAA coach among the league's current 31 head coaches.
Sis games into the season, Quinn seems to be still in the process of taking stock of what he has personnel-wise. Only 12 Rangers skaters have played in all six games, and Quinn has done a fair amount of lineup juggling and scratching of various players here in the early season. Only four Rangers have scored more than one goal this season, and one of them - winger Pavel Buchnevich - was scratched for Tuesday's game against the Avalanche.