December Presents Tough Challenge for Capitals


Nov 29, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Just as they have been average at home this season (5-5-3), the Washington Capitals have been the same on the road. The Caps are 5-5-1 away from the Verizon Center this season and have allowed 24 goals in those losses.

And starting with tonight’s game in Carolina, the Capitals will play nine of their 12 games in the month of December on the road. Of those nine road games, seven come against Metropolitan Division opponents – at Carolina (1x), @ New Jersey (2x), @ Columbus (1x), @ Rangers (1x), @ Pittsburgh (1x), @ Islanders (1x).

The only remaining home games for the Capitals this month are on Dec. 11 and 13 against Columbus and Tampa Bay, and on Dec. 22 against Ottawa.

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One key problem for the Capitals on the road is converting on the power play on the road. The Caps have failed to capitalize on the man-advantage in five road games this season. And in those five games, Washington had seven extra-man opportunities.

Currently, the Capitals are in fourth in the Metropolitan with 24 points, two points behind the third-place Rangers. Both the Penguins and Islanders are tied for first with 36 points (Pittsburgh has the tie-breaker).

The Devils, who will host Washington twice this month, is just two points behind the Capitals in the standings. The Hurricanes have 19 points and the Blue Jackets are in last with 16 points.

Getting wins will be huge for Washington this month. Losses will hurt even more, as so many head-to-head meetings with divisional opponents can greatly impact tie-breakers, should it come down to that at the end of the season.

If the Caps can string together a number of wins this month, there’s a good chance they can distance themselves from the bottom-half of the division and make it a four-team race to finish in the top three in the Metropolitan.

Since only the top three teams in each division are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, and the remaining two spots are filled with the teams with the best record, securing a top-three spot in the division is vital for Washington’s playoff chances this season. Currently, the Maple Leafs, Bruins, Panthers and Senators have more points than the Capitals.

Washington will look to get things rolling tonight against the Hurricanes. The puck is set to drop at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.