The 2016-17 season is upon us, and with opening night for the Washington Capitals to begin in a few hours, we have some interesting facts for you on opening nights in the "Rock the Red" era. For instance, it is a little known fact that...
- Alex Ovechkin is the only player on the 2005-06 opening-night roster to still be with the team. In fact, only one player from that opening night lineup is even still in the NHL: Boyd Gordon (Philadelphia Flyers).
- Ovechkin is, of course, the dean of opening nights in the Rock the Red era. Eleven times he answered the bell, and in seven of those games he recorded points. What he hasn't done with regularity is score his own goals on opening nights. After his electrifying NHL debut against the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005, when he scored a pair, he has four goals in ten opening night games since, only one of them at home, that coming last year in a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils:
- Nicklas Backstrom has a peculiarly "Backstromian" history on opening nights. In nine seasons he dressed for opening night eight times (he did not play on opening night last season, as he was still recuperating from off-season hip surgery). In those eight games he has nine assists, but he has yet to light the lamp on his own. He is also an uncharactreristic minus-4 in those eight games.
- Jay Beagle is an interesting case in one respect. He comes into this season having played in eight seasons in the NHL, but he has been given a sweater on opening night just three times. He has yet to record a point and was an "even" player in each of those three games in which he played.
- As a team, the Caps are 5-5-1 on opening night in the Rock the Red Era. They have scored 35 goals (3.18 per game) and allowed 39 goals (3.55 per game).
- The former Atlanta Thrashers have been the most frequent opening night opponent in this era, having faced the Caps three times. The Caps were 1-2-0 against the Thrashers, and the odd part of that series is, all of the games were played in Atlanta.
- Road games in Atlanta have not been unique. The Caps opened the season on the road seven times in the 11-year Rock the Red era and will make in eight in 12 years on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Goaltenders have not fared too well for the Caps in the season opener. In 11 games, Caps goalies have a combined 3.34 goals against average and a save percentage of .888.
- Braden Holtby has started the last four season openers for the Caps (most of any goalie in this era), but they have not all been games for the scrapbook. He is 1-2-1, 3.70, .871 in those four games, although in his last two opening night contests he stopped 23 of 24 shots in a 2-1 Gimmick loss to the Montreal Canadiens in 2014, and he stopped 21 of 24 shots in a 5-3 win over the New Jersey Devils to open last season.
- The Caps twice went to overtime to open a season, beating the Carolina Hurricanes at Verizon Center on a Mike Green power play goal, 4-3, in 2011; and they lost a 2-1 decision to the Montreal Canadiens in 2014 when Brendan Gallagher beat Braden Holtby in the fifth round of the trick shot competition.
The Caps will head to Pittsburgh trying to win consecutive games on opening night for the first time in the Rock the Red era. Let's hope they start - and end - this 2016-17 season with a victory.