With Saturday's 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild, the Caps concluded the first quarter of the 2017-18 NHL regular season. The Capitals now carry forth into the second quarter, beginning with Monday night's tilt against the Calgary Flames at Capital One Arena.
"I think the first half is basically going to be make or break - where we going to be at as a team mentality," says Caps goaltender Braden Holtby. "We've got to really work hard in the first half to give ourselves a chance in the second half to just play our game and go forward.
"In the first half, it's our goal to make sure that we're working on the little things, and especially on growing our team. After a couple of bad outings, to have a game like [Saturday's] can do a lot for team morale."
Eight of the Caps' next nine games will be played here in Washington, and a mere five points separates the eight teams in the Metropolitan Division standings. Thus far this season, the Capitals have kept their head above water, and now they're hoping to head into a more prosperous portion of the schedule.
"Hopefully we take some of the good things out of that game and try to carry them over, starting with tonight," says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen. "We feel pretty good about how hard we competed. And obviously we had a really good result, so we'll try to keep it going."
Video: Two-Man Advantage | November 20
Every Other Day - Last season, the Caps found that playing games on exactly one day's rest was a real sweet spot for them. Washington went 36-5-3 in games in which it had exactly one day's rest in 2016-17. Holtby was 24-3-3 with six shutouts, a 1.73 GAA and a .937 save pct. in his 31 games played on one day's rest last season.
Thus far in the early going of 2017-18, the Caps are again showing a tendency to do well on one day's rest. Washington is 7-3-1 on one day's rest this season, and each of its next three games - all at home and all this week - falls into the every other day mode.
Holtby has made seven starts on one day's rest this season, going 6-1-0 with a 2.35 GAA and a .926 save pct.
Video: Rinkside Update | Jay Beagle | November 20
Carry Fourth - Last season, Washington's fourth line of Daniel Winnik, Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson was one of the best fourth lines in the league. Aside from being penalty killing stalwarts, the trio was trusted to go up against other team's top forward trio at times, and the three veteran forwards combined to score 32 goals.
With Winnik now in Minnesota and Wilson having been promoted to the Caps' third line, Beagle has had to acclimate himself to new linemates this season. Although newcomer Alex Chiasson has been a bit of a fixture on the right side of that line this season, there has been a bit of a revolving door on the left side.
Currently, the unit consists of Brett Connolly with Beagle and Chiasson. All three of those players reached double-digit goal totals last season, and they combined to score 40 goals.
"That should be a line that I can play night in and night out," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "Three veteran guys that all have pretty good skills sets and have played in the league a little bit. They've got people who are pretty responsible defensively, and there is some scoring on that line with Conno, who is probably a little more of a natural scorer. That line could be a real effective line if we can keep them together for a little bit here."
Connolly, Beagle and Chiasson are each sitting with two goals at this point of the campaign, but they've played together for only a couple of games to date this season.
"It's obviously a lot of fun playing with Conno and Chaser," says Beagle. "Conno I played with him a little bit last year. We had success together and we can read off each other. Obviously Chaser coming in has played really well. We've been put together on the [penalty kill] and at five-on-five almost the whole time, so it's been that left side that has been rotating. So me and Chaser are getting chemistry and starting to read off each other as well. He is a fun guy to play with.
"If we can get going here and we get some confidence in the [offensive] zone, and pucks start bouncing our way a little bit, and we put some in the back of the net, I think we can be a real dangerous line, and that's what we talk about."
Video: Barry Trotz Pregame | November 20
In The Nets - Two nights after picking up his 11th win of the season - and his sixth win in his last seven starts - Holtby gets the net for Washington against the Flames. He made 30 saves in Saturday's win over the Wild, and the only goal scored on him came on a rebound on a Minnesota power play.
On the season, Holtby is 11-4-0 with a 2.56 GAA and a .921 save pct. Lifetime against the Flames, he is 4-1-1 with a 2.88 GAA and an .886 save pct.
For the Flames, Mike Smith is expected to get the start tonight against the Capitals. In his first season with Calgary after several campaigns in the desert of Arizona, Smith has started 17 of the Flames' first 19 games in 2017-18.
Smith is seven and a half years older than Holtby, but his total of 205 career victories in the NHL is only three more than the Washington netminder. Thus far this season, Smith is 10-6-0 with a shutout, a 2.70 GAA and a .919 save pct.
Lifetime against the Capitals, Smith is 3-8-1 with a shutout, a 3.42 GAA and an .889 save pct. in 13 appearances.
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Flames to look on Monday night when they take the ice at Capital One Arena for the second of their two meetings this season:
18-Stephenson, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 25-Smith-Pelly
13-Vrana, 20-Eller, 43-Wilson
10-Connolly, 83-Beagle, 39-Chiasson
29-Djoos (upper body)
65-Burakovsky (upper body, week-to-week)
13-Gaudreau, 23-Monahan, 79-Ferland
19-Tkachuk, 11-Backlund, 67-Frolik
93-Bennett, 77-Jankowski, 68-Jagr
10-Versteeg, 25-F. Hamilton, 36-Brouwer
5-Giordano, 27-D. Hamilton