On The Road Again

Posted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel

Each of the 30 NHL teams must play 82 games, 41 on the road and 41 at home. From the players’ standpoint, you don’t want to be home longer than a week or on the road longer than a week. Since finishing up their pre-season slate with an up-and-back (same day) trip to Nashville on Sept. 28, the Caps have been home for two weeks straight, an unusual but welcome occurrence at season’s outset. That changes this afternoon when the team heads to the skies for its first overnight trip of the season, a journey to Pittsburgh for Thursday’s game with the Penguins. The Caps will head back home immediately after that game for another two-game homestand. Then next Wednesday they’ll head to Philadelphia for a one-game trip. That’s a good way to ease into the routine of the season. Washington plays five of its nine October games at home, including four of the first six of the season. The Caps’ first multiple-game road trip isn’t until late this month when they depart for a long two-game ride that takes them to Edmonton and Vancouver. Washington’s opponent from two nights ago – the Tampa Bay Lightning – opens the season with a five-game trip. The Bolts will endure three season opening home games for their opponents along the way, and won’t open at home themselves until after the Caps have returned from their own first trip of the season. The Lightning started the campaign with back-to-back games and three games in four nights. That’s hitting the ground running. “The good part is that we’re on the road and we get time to spend together and time to do a lot of things that sometimes at home you don’t have time to because people have families,” says Lightning coach Guy Boucher of his team’s lengthy road swing to start the season. “Obviously we’re away many times, and we strongly believe that family comes first, not hockey. So at home, we want our players to take care of their families. So when we’re on the road we try to catch up on some things that we can’t do at home and that’s what we’ve been doing. Team building, meetings, individual meetings with players to help them with their game, and planning. That’s the good side. “The bad side is obviously you’re getting everybody’s game opener or something like that, and everybody’s all cranked up to start the year. The fans are cranked up, the players are cranked up. So you get everybody’s ‘A’ game. “We got Carolina’s ‘A’ game in the first period [in Friday’s season opener]. We weathered the storm and got to take over in the second and the third. In Boston [on Saturday], it was 0-0 after the first. And I thought we could do better. We were okay after the second, but throughout the entire game we weren’t ourselves.” The Bolts are 1-1-1 through the first three games of that five-game tour. Nine years ago, the Caps opened against Nashville at home, then played eight straight on the road. They went 19 days between home games and got smoked 7-2 in their first home game after that long journey. This year’s slate is much more palatable. The Caps have three-game trips in November and January and a four-game run in February, but that Feb. run is mostly warm weather (Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Ottawa). The Caps’ longest stretch of consecutive road contests is in March, when they play five straight away from the District. Those five road games will be broken into three bite-sized journeys, however. Strike up the Canned Heat, the Tom Rush, and the Willie Nelson. The Caps are on the road again.

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