Running Cold on the RoadPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
For the first time in franchise history, the Caps have put together four straight seasons in which they’ve won 20 or more games on the road. Washington has totaled at least 45 road points in each of the last four seasons, hitting its road pinnacle in 2009-10 when it established franchise records for road wins (24) and points (55). Washington has struggled on the road early this season; its five-game road losing streak was the team’s longest in more than four and a half years, dating back to a time when home games weren’t sellouts and Southeast Division titles were a pipe dream. The Caps ended that road tailspin with a win in their most recent road game, a 5-3 win over the Senators in Ottawa on Dec. 7. With that win, Washington is now an unimpressive 5-8 in its first 13 road contests of the 2011-12 campaign. That shouldn’t worry anyone, yet. Except for the juggernaut Presidents’ Trophy winning team that rolled up 55 of its 121 points on the road in 2009-10, every good Caps team of recent vintage has struggled on the road early. The 2007-08 Capitals won their first two road games of the season, then went 2-7-1 in their next 10 away from the District. They were 4-7-1 in away games when Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench on Nov. 22, 2007, and they finished the season at 20-16-5 on the road. That 2007-08 club was the first Caps team in more than a decade to win as many as 20 games on the road. Prior to that, the 1993-94 edition had been the most recent 20-win road team in Washington with a 22-19-1 mark. Boudreau’s first full season behind the bench was 2008-09. The Capitals were an underwhelming 4-8-2 in their first 14 road games that season, but they rebounded to finish at 21-15-5 for the season. The 2009-10 team roared out to an 8-3-3 mark in its first 14 on the road, and finished up 24-10-7, the best road mark in franchise history. Last season, Washington slogged out to a 6-8-1 start in its first 15 games on the road, But the Caps were 17-7-2 the rest of the way away from Verizon Center, rolling to a strong final road mark of 23-15-3. Tonight, the Caps make their second ever visit to Winnipeg as they start a two-game trip that also takes them to Denver. The Capitals are in 12th place in then Eastern Conference standings, and they know the route up the ladder. They’ve got to start stringing together wins, regardless of venue. Getting one here tonight would be a good lift. The team formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers has become very comfortable here in its new environment, posting an impressive 10-4 mark in its first 14 games in its new MTS Centre home. The Jets have won five straight at home and eight of their last nine here, and they’ve been extremely stingy in doing so. Winnipeg has allowed a combined total of just six goals during the life of its current five-game home ice winning streak. The Jets have taken down both Boston and Minnesota – the top teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively – by identical 2-1 scores along the way. Playing against the Jets in Winnipeg is a lot different than playing against the Thrashers in Atlanta. In their final season in Atlanta, the team won just 17 home games (17-17-7). The Jets have won as many as 20 home games just twice in the 11 seasons of their existence, and have not done so since 2006-07. The Caps will have a tall order to take one here tonight, but the Jets are one of the teams immediately ahead of them on the Eastern Conference standings ladder. Time to start climbing over some clubs, and time to start the nearly annual road turnaround as well.
Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth and Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov were both drafted by Washington in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Varlamov was chosen in the first round (23rd overall) and Neuvirth in the second round (34th overall). Varlamov was the second goaltender drafted overall that year; Riku