The Capitals’ early-season schedule has been anything but easy, with a road-heavy October slate stocked with plenty of tough opponents that hasn’t gotten any easier as we roll into November. Despite all of that, the Caps currently find themselves atop not only the Metropolitan Division but also the League as a whole, with an impressive record of 11-2-3 overall.
It’s early yet, however, and the schedule certainly doesn’t get any easier, with some of the League’s top teams headed their way in the coming weeks. And while we wouldn’t want to look past tonight’s party in South Florida against the Panthers, it’s worth keeping an eye on one key matchup that lies just around the corner: a date with the Vegas Golden Knights this Saturday at Capital One Arena.
The Caps and Knights have only faced each other four times in the regular season, each team paying one perfunctory visit to the other’s arena once a year. If this were any other Western Conference team, such a brief slate of games to work from would hardly be cause for excitement.
Ah, but there’s so much more to a meeting between the Caps and Knights, and it all goes back to the five games they played in that fateful June two summers ago. The upstart expansion team that surprised the League going up against the long-suffering franchise forever battling its own history; a city longing for its first championship in over two decades taking on a city getting its first taste of hockey.
For Caps fans, it’s unlikely that any game in the foreseeable future against Vegas will ever feel like “just another game” - especially given that their roster is still peppered with familiar names from that fateful playoff run.
Ryan Reaves, whose sole purpose seems to be talking a big game (while getting benched in the biggest game). Reilly Smith, who led the Knights in scoring with six points against the Caps. Alex Tuch, the unfortunate soul on the other end of The Save. And of course, more familiar than any of them, Marc-Andre Fleury in net, one of the last demons to be exorcised en route to the Caps’ Cup.
Those reminders of 2018, the Reaves and Smiths and Jonathan Marchessaults and William Karlssons and Shea Theodores, are enough on their own to give this renewed rivalry a little kick and send Caps fans down memory lane on every shift.
So what keeps this brief but feisty rivalry feeling fresh? The fact that the Knights are, once again, one of the better teams in the League should help that out - it’s always fun to see the best take on the best. And there are plenty of new faces in that Vegas locker room that continue to make them just as tough to play against as ever, from veteran additions like Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty to their much ballyhooed rookie, Cody Glass.
In short, whether you’re looking to reminisce about Lars Eller finding the loose puck behind Fleury to give the Caps a lead late in the third period, or you prefer to keep your eyes straight ahead in hopes of an exciting matchup between two talented teams, it’s all baked into this one.
Don’t miss out on 2018 Cup Final Rematch: Part Deux... plenty of good seats still available!
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