More than 10 months after their last regular season game, the Capitals will finally start the 2020-21 season on Jan. 14 in Buffalo, the same location where they played their final game of 2019-20. Last season came to an unexpected halt for the Caps after a 3-2 shootout loss to the Sabres in Buffalo on March 9.
The NHL and its 31 member teams revealed those schedules this afternoon, and for the Caps, the upcoming slate starts with a bit of irony.
When the pandemic abruptly shut down the 2019-20 season in mid-March of this year, the Caps had just returned from a three-game road trip that culminated in the aforementioned loss in Buffalo on March 9. The Caps will open the 2020-21 season in Buffalo, playing a set of back-to-back games right where last season left off. This season marks the first time the Capitals have opened in Buffalo since 1981-82, and the first time they've started the season with two games against the same opponent since the 1984-85 season got underway with a home-and-home set with Philadelphia.
After playing two games against the Sabres on Jan. 14-15, they'll head to Pittsburgh for a pair of games with the Penguins. The Caps played their penultimate 2019-20 regular season game in Pittsburgh on March 7 prior to finishing the campaign in Western New York.
For the first time in franchise history, the Caps will open with four straight road games. Their lone three-game trip at season's outset also came at the start of a shortened season, the lockout-abbreviated 1994-95 campaign when they played the first three of games of a 48-game slate at Hartford, Quebec and Montreal, respectively.
The Capitals' home opener at Capital One Arena is also against the Sabres, on Jan. 22. Buffalo and Washington will tangle on F St. again two nights later, the first two games of a six-game homestand to kick off the home portion of the schedule.
Most notably, the Caps' 2020-21 schedule includes only seven different opponents, the fewest in the franchise's history. Five of those foes are fellow denizens of the Metropolitan Division, with Boston and Buffalo replacing Metro teams Carolina and Columbus in the newly - and temporarily - cobbled East Division.
Beginning in their inaugural season of 1974-75, the Caps played both Boston and Buffalo five times a season for four straight seasons, and they've faced both clubs either three or four times in every season since, except for last season when their final scheduled meeting with the Sabres (March 30) was scrapped because of the pandemic. This marks the first time the Caps have ever been in the same division as Boston and Buffalo.
Washington played eight games against the Islanders, the Rangers, the Flyers and the Penguins in 1981-82, and it played eight games against Pittsburgh in 1978-79. The Caps faced the Rangers nine times in 1992-93 when the schedule was 84 games in length. This season will mark the most games Washington has ever played against Boston, Buffalo and New Jersey in a single season.
Here are some other notes and observations from our first glance at the Caps' 2020-21 slate:
- Washington's home schedule is comprised of a quartet of two-game homestands, a pair of four-game homestands and a pair of six-game homestands. The Caps' first homestand of the season is six games in length from Jan. 22-Feb. 1, and they'll have another from March 15-28.
- In the midst of the second of those six-game homestands, the Caps will have the benefit of a five-day break between games on March 19 vs. the Rangers and March 25 vs. the Devils. That's a real luxury in this condensed and shortened season, and it's similar to "bye weeks" of previous campaigns, at least in length.
- Washington will play a total of 10 sets of games on back-to back nights this season.
- The Caps will play out their 56-game schedule over a span of 115 days, finishing with a pair of home games against Philadelphia on May 7-8. The May 8 finale against the Flyers will mark the latest date for a regular season game in franchise history.
- Washington will see plenty of both the Sabres and the Penguins in the early going; six of the Caps' first 16 games with be against Buffalo, and six of their first 22 will be played against the Pens.
- The last team the Caps will face for the first time is New Jersey. Washington will see the Devils for the first time on Feb. 27 and March 1 in Newark. Starting on Feb. 27, the Caps will face the Devils eight times in a span of 18 games to account for the entire season's slate between the two clubs.
- Washington will have just a single one-game road trip, to New York to face the Rangers on Feb. 4. The Caps will have a pair of two-game trips, a trio of four-game journeys, a five-game trip, and a single season-long six-game road trip from April 17-27, an excursion that begins and ends in Philadelphia.
- One nod to tradition and familiarity: the Caps will host the Flyers on Feb. 7, which is Super Bowl Sunday. This will mark the 13th straight season and the 29th time in fracnhise history that Washington has hosted a home game on Super Bowl Sunday.
By the day:
Sunday: Five home, four on the road
Monday: Two home, two on the road
Tuesday: Six home, six on the road
Wednesday: None home, two on the road
Thursday: Six home, six on the road
Friday: Five home, three on the road
Saturday: Four home, five on the road
By the month:
January: Five at home, four on the road
February: Seven at home, six on the road
March: Eight at home, six on the road
April: Five at home, 10 on the road
May: Three at home, two on the road