Whenever the hockey season starts in January instead of October, you know things are going to be different - but this year will be a season unlike any other, as pandemic conditions require even more changes to the NHL schedule. Each team will play 56 games but will only face their division opponents over the course of the season and through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
In the Caps’ case, that means eight games apiece against each of their East Division neighbors. That means a lot of face time with the Bruins, Sabres, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, and Penguins.
Joy of joys.
With the NHL releasing the full schedule today, we now know that the Caps will kick off their condensed season against the Sabres in Buffalo on January 14.
A few notes on the schedule:
- In a further attempt to limit travel, the season will mostly consist of a number of mini series, with a visiting team usually playing at least two games in a row in the same city (with some exceptions scattered throughout, like the Caps’ single stop in New York on February 4)
- The Caps will kick off the season with a four-game road trip, starting with back-to-back games in Buffalo followed by a pair in Pittsburgh
- The longest road trip of the season will be a six-game slog through Boston, Philadelphia and New York (to face the Islanders) in April
- The Caps will have eight sets of back-to-back games, but only three of those will feature a different opponent on the first night than the second - a February duo against Buffalo and Pittsburgh, an Islanders/Devils two-fer at the beginning of April and a Philadelphia/Boston swing later that month
- Eight of the team’s last 12 games will take place away from DC
- The Caps will wrap up their regular-season slate against the Flyers on May 8
Check out the full slate of games for the Capitals’ 2020-21 season:
The top four teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs. The first two rounds will be intradivisional, with the first-place team playing the fourth-place team and the second-place team facing the third-place team in the first round. The four teams that advance from the second round to the Semifinal Round will be seeded by their points total in the regular season (No. 1 vs. No. 4; No. 2 vs. No. 3).