The Washington Capitals will begin pursuit of the Stanley Cup on Oct. 1 in Boston against the Bruins. This marks the fourth successive season in which the Caps will open on the road. The opener in Boston matches the earliest opener in franchise history. The 1997-98 season opener took place in Toronto on Oct. 1. As was the case in 1997-98 and the last two Olympic years, there is a two-week break built into the 2009-10 schedule so that players may participate in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Washington’s home opener is Oct. 3 against the Maple Leafs. The Caps will also close the season against the Bruins at Verizon Center in a Sunday matinee on April 11.
Each Southeast Division opponent is on the slate for six games (three at home, three on the road). The Caps face each of the 10 remaining Eastern Conference teams four times each (twice at home, twice on the road). The other 18 games will be against Western Conference opponents. The Caps will visit the Western cities they did not travel to last season and will host the Western foes they did not host last season. Washington faces three Western teams – Detroit, Columbus and San Jose – twice, once on the road and once at Verizon Center.
The Capitals’ busiest month will be January, when they play 15 games.
Washington’s longest homestand will be a five-game run from March 4-12. Tampa Bay visits to start and to close that homestand. That homestand starts a stretch run in which Washington will play 12 of its final 19 games of the season on home ice.
The Caps never play more than four consecutive games on the road, and they play four straight road games on three separate occasions. The first of those trips will actually be two separate trips, and the second will be broken up by the Olympic break, which stretches over the latter half of February.
The Capitals do not play as many as three straight games on the road until early December when they head off to Philadelphia (Dec. 5), Tampa Bay (Dec. 7) and Buffalo (Dec. 9). That trip starts a stretch in which Washington must play seven of eight games on the road. Beginning with a visit to New Jersey on Nov. 14 and concluding with a Jan. 13 game against the Panthers in Florida, the Caps will play 18 of 27 games on the road in a 61-day span.
Washington will be playing in Canadian cities on two Saturdays in November (Nov. 21 at Toronto and Nov. 28 at Montreal) and on two Saturdays in December (Dec. 12 at Toronto and Dec. 19 at Edmonton), opening up some Hockey Night in Canada possibilities for the Caps.
After facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in one of the most exciting playoff series in recent memory during the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Caps and Penguins won’t meet for the first time in 2009-10 until Jan. 21 at Pittsburgh. The Caps and Pens meet once in January, February, March and April.
The Caps’ schedule features just one home-and-home set of games, a Friday night game in Florida on Nov. 6 followed by a Saturday night skirmish against the Panthers at Verizon on Nov. 7.
Notably absent from this season’s slate is the annual New Year’s Day matinee home game. Excluding the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season that did not begin until late January, the Caps have had a home game scheduled on New Year’s Day every year since 1988-89. This year, the NHL won’t allow other league games on New Year’s Day. The league wants all focus on the Winter Classic, which sends Washington’s New Year’s Day tradition into dormancy.
The schedule does include traditional home games on the Thanksgiving Eve (Nov. 25 vs. Buffalo) and Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 7 vs. Pittsburgh).
Despite the condensed schedule to accommodate the Olympic break, the Caps will play games on back-to-back nights only 13 times, the same number of back-to-backs the team played during the 2008-09 season.
Washington has only two Friday night road games, and none after Dec. 18 in Vancouver. A March 14 visit to Chicago is the Capitals’ only Sunday road game this season. That contest also marks the final time Washington will have to leave the Eastern time zone for a game.
Seven matinees are featured on the 2009-10 schedule, with six of them coming at home. The Caps’ lone road afternoon game is on Jan. 2 at Los Angeles in the final game of the first half of the season.
Recent schedules have been heavy with Southeast Division opponents down the stretch. That’s not the case this season. Only three of the Caps’ final 10 games are against Southeast Division foes, and two of those tilts are against the Atlanta Thrashers.
All four of Washington’s meetings with the New Jersey Devils will take place in the season’s first half. The Caps host the Devils on Oct. 12 and Dec. 26 and visit New Jersey on Nov. 4 and 14.
After taking on the Bruins in the Oct. 1 opener, the Caps and B’s won’t meet again until Feb. 2 in Boston. Two of the Caps’ final three home games will feature the Bruins. Boston won’t make its first visit to Verizon until April 5, less than a week before it supplies the opposition for the season-closing contest.
By The Numbers: Monday: Seven games, four at home and three on the road Tuesday: 12 games, four at home and eight on the road Wednesday: 12 games, six at home and six on the road Thursday: 14 games, six at home and eight on the road Friday: 11 games, nine at home and two on the road Saturday: 19 games, six at home and 13 on the road Sunday: Seven games, six at home and one on the road.
October: 13 games, seven at home and six on the road November: 14 games, six at home and eight on the road December: 13 games, five at home and eight on the road January: 15 games, nine at home and six on the road February: Seven games, two at home and five on the road March: 14 games, eight at home and six on the road April: Six games, four at home and two on the road