The Capitals may have ended February with a thud with Wednesday’s 4-1 loss in Philadelphia, but the consensus is that the Caps are a better team now than they were four weeks ago.
After losing six of seven games in January (1-5-1), the Capitals rebounded with a 6-6-0 record in February. At the same time, Braden Holtby emerged as the team’s undisputed No.1 goalie with eight straight starts, Eric Fehr and Mathieu Perreault worked their way back into Washington’s lineup on a fulltime basis and the team’s power play clicked at a 34.2 percent success rate (13/38).
The problem though is that despite a 4-0-0 record within the Southeast Division in February, the Capitals barely gained any ground on the division lead.
Consider that on Feb. 1, the Capitals trailed the first place Tampa Bay Lightning by seven points. When the Caps wake up on March 1, they’ll find themselves six points behind the Carolina Hurricanes and Winnipeg Jets for the same position.
With that in mind, the Capitals cannot settle for another .500 month in March. That may be easier said than done though given that the Capitals have the worst road record in the Eastern Conference (2-6-1) and will be spending much of the next month living out of their suitcases.
Below is a look at some of the highlights of the month ahead- the busiest stretch of Washington’s abbreviated 48-game campaign.
- Beginning on Saturday in Winnipeg, the Capitals will play 16 games in 30 days in March. The most condensed part of the schedule comes from March 16-26 when the Capitals will play seven games in 11 days (the Caps will play as many games in Winnipeg over that stretch (two) as they will in D.C.)
- Of Washington’s 16 games in March, ten are on the road highlighted by a season-high four-game road trip from March 19-24.
- The Capitals looked sluggish in Philadelphia Wednesday in their second game in as many nights. Washington has four sets of back-to-back games in March, highlighted by consecutive games at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre March 22-23.
- The Capitals host the Boston Bruins on March 5 in their first meeting since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last spring. The Bruins enter March with a 12-2-2 record overall and a league-best 8-1-1 mark on the road.
- Six of Washington’s 16 games in March are against teams within the Southeast Division. In addition to three games in Winnipeg (March 2, 22 and 23), the Caps host Florida (March 7) and play a home-and-home series against Carolina (March 12 and 14).
The Capitals are also hoping for a couple of reinforcements in the weeks ahead as Brooks Laich (groin) and Dmitry Orlov (concussion) aim to make their 2013 NHL season debuts.
Washington’s play in the month ahead could also go a long way in deciding what, if any, moves general manager George McPhee makes at the NHL Trade Deadline on April 3.