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It is an interesting development when an NHL game, in the first weeks of the season, feels like an important game. The contest between Vancouver and Washington might not have the earmarks to be a ‘must win’ but it is one that both would sure like to have.
Vancouver is playing its first five games on the road. It is doing it across three time zones. It is actually worse, if you dig deeper. The NHL slogged the team with a total of 11 of its first 17 away from home. The Canucks were not able to overcome a sluggish start to 2021 and with a deep Western Conference may not be able to afford it again.
This content is the front end of back-to-back games for Vancouver and that second night has already proven difficult for teams this season. What the team does with Thatcher Demko to manage his workload in the early going versus needing to get victories will be interesting.
For Washington — and Coach Peter Laviolette — it needs to take advantage.
The Capitals had a 100-point season last year thought it dealt with 288-man games last to injury. It was also the second year it was bounced in the first round. So a ‘must win’ … maybe not… but it is certainly urgent to get victories.
Washington also made one of the biggest additions in the off-season by inking former Colorado Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper to a five-year deal. Kuemper led the Avs to a Stanley Cup title last year with a 37-12-4 record and just a 2.54 goals-against average.
It will play without Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, and Carl Hagelin again. Excuses for injury will not suffice, especially as the team made the same mistakes in its early losses that it did last year.
It may not be cause for panic, but the defense — especially early in the game — must improve. The expectations in Washington do not change; it is time to win. Vancouver has already hit Edmonton and Philly. It will exit town for a game in Columbus and then into Minnesota.
Washington has to win this one at home. Take the Caps and get your free $200 from BetMGM when they score a goal!