By Mike Vogel
The Washington Capitals will take to the ice for their 39th season of NHL hockey on Oct. 1 when they open the 2013-14 regular season against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City. The season opener matches the earliest in Washington’s franchise history; the Caps also started on Oct. 1 in 1997-98 when they opened in Toronto against the Maple Leafs and in 2009-10 when they faced the Bruins in Boston.
Two nights after their ’13-14 opener in Chicago, the Capitals will host the Calgary Flames at Verizon Center in Washington’s home opener for the 2013-14 season.
With the newly re-aligned divisions, the Capitals will join seven other clubs in their new divisional home. Washington will play every NHL team at home and on the road for the first time since 2003-04. The Caps will play 30 games within their own division, 28 games against the opposite conference, and 24 games against the other eight teams in their conference (but outside their division).
Washington plays five clubs in its division four times each, but plays two of those clubs (Carolina and Philadelphia) five teams each.
The Capitals will play 16 of those 30 divisional games in the first half of the season and 14 in the second half.
In the other Eastern Conference division, the Caps will host Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Tampa Bay twice each while visiting those teams’ buildings just once. Washington will visit Boston, Buffalo, Detroit and Florida twice while hosting those clubs once.
Washington’s longest homestand of the season comes early in the 2013-14 campaign. The Caps will host five straight games from Oct. 10-19. The Caps will follow that up with one of two five-game road stretches (also a season high), though it’s worth noting that they’ll almost certainly make a brief stop at home in the middle of both of those road runs. Washington has seven homestands of three or more games in length.
The two longest road stretches (five games each) come from Oct. 22-Nov. 1 and from Jan. 24-31. The first of those trips is much longer and includes four Western cities: Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. That trip is the only trip of more than two games in duration in the first half of the season.
The Capitals will play games on back-to-back nights 17 times during the 2013-14 season. Four of those back-to-backs are in November, three in December, four in January, four in March and two in April.
Washington plays 23 home games and 18 road games in the first half of the campaign and 18 home games and 23 road games in the second half. A Jan. 2 game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Washington marks the final game of the first half.
Here are some other notes based on a quick perusal of the Capitals’ 2013-14 schedule:
· There is a break of 18 days in February to accommodate the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The Caps will not play between Feb. 9-26.
· The Caps’ schedule features 10 afternoon games, including seven at Verizon Center.
· The Capitals’ most rugged stretch of scheduling arguably comes right before the Olympic break when they play 10 games in a span of 18 nights. Eight of the 10 games are on the road and there are three sets of back-to-backs within that 18-day stretch. Five of the eight road destinations during that span are against divisional foes.
· The Caps play back-to-back games against the Red Wings on Jan. 31 (in Detroit) and Feb. 2 (at Verizon Center). The games mark the first set of back-to-backs for Washington against the Wings since March 11-14, 1979, back in the days of The Original 17 when the two teams shared occupancy of the Norris Division.
· The Caps’ home game against Detroit falls on Super Bowl Sunday, marking the fourth time in the last five years the Caps have hosted a game on the NFL’s crowning day.
· Washington plays four sets of consecutive games against the same club, two of them against Philadelphia and one each against Detroit and Pittsburgh. Only one of those sets of games (against the Penguins in March) is on back-to-back nights, in the truest and strictest definition of a “home and home.”
· After opening the season against the Blackhawks in Chicago on Oct. 1, the Caps won’t face Chicago again until the penultimate game of the season, an April 11 date at Verizon Center.
· In addition to playing its season opener in Chicago on Oct. 1, Washington plays its pre-season finale against the Blackhawks in the Windy City on Sept. 28.
· Breakdown by month: October, 12 (six home, six road); November, 15 (nine home, six road); December, 13 (seven home, six road); January, 15 (five home, 10 road), February, 5 (four home, one road); March, 15 (seven home, eight road) and April, 7 (three home, four road).
· Breakdown by day: Sunday, 12 (seven home, five road); Monday, 5 (three home, two road); Tuesday, 16 (nine home, seven road); Wednesday, 5 (three home, two road); Thursday, 12 (five home, seven road); Friday, 14 (six home, eight road) and Saturday, 18 (eight home, 10 road).