When the 2021-22 NHL regular season started, everyone knew there was potential for some wonky scheduling through the season.
And right now, the Capitals are in the midst of their most unique, and by default, perhaps most difficult part of the schedule. With players coming in and out of the lineup with injuries, COVID protocol issues and non-COVID illnesses, the Capitals have played what feels like a different lineup every night this season.
Now 37 games into the season and nearing the halfway point after Monday’s 7-3 loss to the Bruins, a break in the schedule doesn’t seem as glamorous as it might in previous seasons.
“I think we've had too many breaks,” center Nic Dowd said. “I've had too many breaks. Guys have had too many breaks. Guys want to play hockey. We're sick of these breaks. I mean, I am.”
The Capitals had an extended holiday break, which lasted from Dec. 19 through Dec. 29 with three postponements and Christmas all sandwiched in-between.
Then, the team played three games in five days before a four-day stretch with nothing but practices on the schedule. Next followed a stretch of three games in four days, including two road games in St. Louis and Minnesota before Monday’s drubbing against Boston at home.
Now, the Capitals will have four days off for the second time in a week before a stretch of 10 games in 19 days and the previously scheduled Olympic Break.
“It’s tough for every player, with the COVID, different kind of things,” defensemen Martin Fehervary said. “A lot of players (are) coming back and forth. It’s hard, but we can’t complain. We just need to focus on our every game and just doing our jobs.”
With no games currently scheduled between Feb. 3 and Feb. 23, and just four games to be made up against the Flyers, Islanders, Senators and Canadiens, there’s another length break on the way for the Capitals before late February when the season kicks into high-gear before the trade deadline.
Naturally, there are things to work through for the team, namely that they haven’t had many opportunities to play with a full lineup. Monday was just the second time all season they’ve been able to play Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Nic Dowd in the same game.
But every team in the NHL is going through it too, and the best the Capitals can do for now is skate as hard as they can — at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
“We can have some good practice, there are certainly things we can pull from this game to take a look at,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “Sometimes you play the back to backs and a day off yesterday and game today, you don’t get a chance to look at the things you can do better. There certainly will be some things from tonight that we can do better for conditioning, systems, specialty teams, trying to take the time that we have and make the most of it.”