Over the course of 82 games, there are bound to be some bad ones in the bunch. Wednesday was the first stinker of the season for the Caps who were handed a 6-0 blowout loss at the hands of the New Jersey Devils.
There were plenty of reasons to explain why the Caps lost this game. It was the second leg of a back-to-back for Washington against a team that had not played since Saturday, Pheonix Copley was in net playing in just the third NHL game of his career and it was New Jersey’s home opener.
All of that could perhaps help explain a loss. But when the Caps were down and out, they were not able to lean on a strong performance from their goalie to get them back into it. They could not get things going on the power play. When they were down and out in the third period, the Devils were not about to take their foot off the gas. Instead, they went for the throat.
That’s the challenge the Caps face this year as the defending champions.
“I think it’s going to be like that all season,” Lars Eller said. “Teams are going to want to beat the champs and show their best. They got a lot of energy going tonight and we didn’t have as much of it.”
It’s hard to get up for 82 games, but the fact is every team is going to get up to play the Caps each and every game.
There’s no room for bad starts, there’s no room for overlooking the second leg of a back-to-back. Every team is going to give Washington their best shot.
“Years past, I remember playing games against the team that won before and using it as a measuring stick and something you talk about as a focus game,” Matt Niskanen said. “We’ll have to learn how to deal with that.”
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The Buffalo Sabres do not rank high among the Capitals’ most hated rivals, but when you look back at the history of these two teams, Washington has struggled against the Sabres more than you may think.
In the Caps’ first two seasons they faced Buffalo 10 times. Washington lost nine of those games and tied one. In fact, the Caps managed only two wins total in their first 32 meetings.
Even when Washington advanced past their initial struggles as a franchise, success against Buffalo has been hard to come by. In their 43 seasons as a team, the Caps have only managed to sweep the season series with the Sabres three times in 1988-89, 2012-13, 2016-17.
On Saturday, however, the Caps can make it four.
Buffalo visited Washington twice in December with the Caps winning each game. On Saturday, Washington heads to Buffalo for their final meeting of the season. (1 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).
Carl Hagelin will make his Capitals debut Saturday. He suited up for the first time with his new team on Friday after getting trade by the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. He practice on the fourth line with Nic Dowd at center and Chandler Stephenson on the wing.
The newly acquired Nick Jensen will not be available for the game.
End of the road
Saturday’s game will be the sixth and final game of a season-long six-game road trip. Washington has already earned three wins guaranteeing them at least a .500 finish. A win Saturday will give them four out of six and turn a respectable road trip into a very good one.
Watching the standings
With two points, Washington can pull even with the New York Islanders. The Caps have 75 points while the Islanders sit in first place with 77. New York has a game in hand on Washington and they play later Saturday night, so a tie in the standings on Saturday afternoon could prove to be short-lived.
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Madison Bowey was traded to the Motor City earlier today as well as a second round draft pick for defenseman Nick Jensen and a fifth round draft pick. Washington promptly re-signed their new addition to a four-year, $10 million dollar contract.
After hearing the news about their teammate's departure, memebers of the Caps' took to social media to give their best wishes.
Bowey, a Stanley Cup champion, was a vital member of the 2018 Capitals' squad in their pursuit of the Cup.
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