Washington Capitals 2013 Schedule: Breaking Down the Shortened Season

Robert WoodCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2013

Washington Capitals 2013 Schedule: Breaking Down the Shortened Season

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    The Washington Capitals schedule for the 2012-13 regular season has been released by the NHL, along with the schedules for the entire league.

    The season will last 48 games, and play will begin on Saturday, Jan. 19.

    Before the season begins, let's take some time to break down the schedule.

    We will look at the Capitals schedule versus the Western Conference, as well as the Eastern Conference. Within the Capitals' own conference, we will dissect their schedule against each division, including their own. The quirks of this shortened schedule must be examined as well. And finally, we will rate the difficulty of this schedule versus the standard 82-game schedule.

    Without further ado, here is a breakdown of the Capitals' 2013 schedule in this lockout-shortened season.

Western Conference

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    The first thing you will notice when looking at the Capitals' 2013 schedule is that there are no games against the Western Conference.

    So, if you are a Washington Capitals fan that does not like random games against the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers, then this is your year. Plus, the Capitals will not have to travel to San Jose, where their 12-game losing streak in the "Shark Tank" dates back to 1993.

    But if you are a Capitals fan hoping to see your team play the best the Western Conference has to offer, such as the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, the Vancouver Canucks or the Chicago Blackhawks, then you will just have to wait till next season.

    Or until the Stanley Cup Final...

Eastern Conference

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    If the Capitals are playing a 48-game schedule, and none of those games are against the Western Conference, then that means their entire schedule will be played against the Eastern Conference.

    This schedule reveals one immediate advantage: shorter travel distances. This is advantageous for both the players and the fans. The players will not be worn down by hours upon hours in the plane along with debilitating jet lag as they complete West Coast road trips. And the fans will not have to stay up to all hours of the night to watch the Caps play in distant locales that are multiple time zones away from the Washington area.

    But by only playing Eastern Conference opponents, the Capitals schedule becomes that much more intense. Every game is against a team with at least the makings of a rivalry, and every game will be crucial for playoff positioning.

    Which will become a factor almost instantly.

Southeast Division

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    The Washington Capitals will play 18 regular-season games against their own Southeast Division, as opposed to the 24 they would normally play in a full 82-game season.

    Of course, to play 18 games against four teams, the Southeast Division schedule will have to be unbalanced. For the Capitals, that means four games each against Florida and Tampa Bay and five games each against Carolina and Winnipeg.

    The Caps will play three home games against Carolina and three road games against Winnipeg. This adds an interesting layer to the Capitals schedule, as the Carolina Hurricanes and Winnipeg Jets represent two of the Capitals' most heated rivalries.

Atlantic Division

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    The current Atlantic Division harkens back to the old Patrick Division. As a result, the division contains several of the Capitals most heated rivalries.

    To accommodate the compressed schedule, however, the Caps will only play the teams in the Atlantic Division three games apiece instead of the customary four games. That will detract from the season some.

    But to seemingly make up for that fact, the Capitals will play two of the three scheduled games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers on the road.

    This will increase the importance and intensity of these particular games for the Washington Capitals—if that is even necessary—therefore helping to maintain the heat of these rivalries despite the short season.

Northeast Division

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    After accounting for 33 games against the Southeast and Atlantic Divisions, the Washington Capitals will play their remaining 15 games against the Northeast Division. This means the Capitals will play three games each against each team in the Northeast.

    The biggest shame in this scheduling is that the Caps will only play three games against the Boston Bruins, instead of four. After last spring's extremely hard-fought Eastern Conference quarterfinals series, the Bruins quickly ascended the list of the Capitals' most heated rivalries.

    Thankfully for the Capitals, two of those games will be played at Verizon Center.

Scheduling Quirks

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    Since the NHL had to quickly schedule 30 teams to play 48 games in 99 days, there were bound to be some quirks in the resulting schedule.

    For the Washington Capitals, the first of which occurs in early February. On Feb. 3, the Capitals host the rival Penguins at Verizon Center. Only four days later, the Capitals play the Penguins in Pittsburgh, the two games interrupted by the Capitals playing the Toronto Maple Leafs in Washington on Feb. 5. The Toronto game creates a sort of split home-and-home for the Capitals and Penguins.

    But even more odd than that is something that can only be described as a two-game series. Twice on their schedule, exactly a month apart, the Capitals will play the same opponent in two consecutive games in the same arena.

    On Feb. 21, the Capitals will host the New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center, only to host the same New Jersey Devils at Verizon Center on Feb. 23, with no game in between.

    But even quirkier—and more menacing—is what occurs on March 21 and 22. On those two consecutive nights, the Capitals will play two games against the division rival Winnipeg Jets in the intimidating MTS Centre in Winnipeg. The Jets' home arena has already become one of the toughest places to play in the NHL. And this season, the Caps will get a painful double dose of The Peg.

    Too bad realignment was not approved by the NHL before the start of this season.

Difficulty

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    This shortened season may seem like a sprint. But if you look closely, it's basically the same as last season's final 48 games.

    The 2013 NHL season will consist of 48 games over 99 days. The 2011-12 season's final 48 games occurred over 101 days.

    Furthermore, the Washington Capitals' 2013 season only has eight back-to-back games. Last season, the Capitals played nine back-to-back games within the season's last 48 games.

    As a result, the 2013 season will be about as difficult as the last 48 games of any season. The only difference is that the push for the playoffs begins with the season's opening faceoff.