Oct. 4 vs. New York Islanders at NYCB Live, Uniondale, NY
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7
Washington Capitals 1-0-0
New York Islanders 0-0-0
The Caps finish up a season-opening two-game road trip on Friday night when they supply the opposition for the New York Islanders' home and season opener. It's also the start of the Caps' first set of back-to-back games this season; they return home for their own home opener on Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Washington opened its season on Wednesday, rallying from an early 2-0 deficit to earn a 3-2 overtime victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues in St. Louis. Jakub Vrana scored then game-winner in overtime, and Braden Holtby stopped each of the last 19 shots he faced as the Caps spoiled the Blues' Cup banner-raising celebration.
"Obviously we know in this game, things change quickly," says Holtby. "We believed we had a good game plan. They made a couple of nice plays early, but they weren't dominating the game or anything, so we always feel confident in ourselves that we can come back from a couple of goals. We did a great job of just sticking to our game plan, and we executed."
The Blues are one of the league's best forechecking outfits, and with Brooks Orpik (retired) and Matt Niskanen (traded to Philadelphia) no longer on the Washington blueline, nearly a thousand games worth of experience have been removed. The Caps had Jonas Siegenthaler (26 games of NHL experience) and 19-year-old Martin Fehervary (making his NHL debut) in the lineup, but the revamped unit handled a heavy St. Louis time with relative aplomb after the first half of the first.
"I think they're getting better," says Holtby of the young blueliners, "especially through camp. Siegs has that experience now, too, but they can skate. That's the key to defending any hard forecheck; you've got to be able to move back there. They kept their feet moving, and for the most part, that's why we were able to defend that."
For nearly 14 minutes in the second period of Wednesday's game, the Blues were unable to generate a shot on goal. St. Louis managed only 22 shots on goal for the game, and the Caps had the better of the territorial and possession advantages in the season opener.
"I think early on, not as well as when the game started to get going in the right direction for us," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "But to me, I felt like - and I mentioned it to the guys - it was a little self-inflicted. If we're going to have a young defensive group back there - and we realize it's going to take a little while to get totally up to speed and comfortable - then you have to force the opposition to play 200 feet from your net.
"We turned some pucks over in the first, and they were able to generate offense and get too many chances for my liking in the first period. We just discussed it, and to the guys' credit, they went out and managed the puck completely different, and now our defense looked a lot more comfortable and they're not going back quite as many times to get pucks under pressure."
Now the Caps head directly into their first two Metropolitan Division games of the season, and they do so on consecutive nights. Holtby is expected to get Friday night off to prepare for facing Carolina on Saturday. Rookie netminder Ilya Samsonov is set to make his NHL debut in net on Friday against the Islanders.
Video: Ilya Samsonov | October 3
Under former Caps coach Barry Trotz, the Islanders had a remarkable season in 2018-19. They went from last in the league in goals against in 2017-18 to first in that department, and they became a much more difficult team to play against.
New York returned to the playoffs, and they chased the Pittsburgh Penguins away in a four-game first-round sweep before suffering the same fate themselves in the second round against Carolina.
From last year's team, the Isles lost goaltender Robin Lehner and center Valtteri Filppula, and they've replaced those two with the offseason signings of netminder - and former Capital - Semyon Varlamov and center Derick Brassard.