20 Burning Questions: Can the Caps get off to a good start despite a brutal October schedule?

J.J. Regan

The long, endless summer is only halfway done. The Capitals last played a game on April 24 and will not play another one until Oct. 2.

But with free agency and the NHL Draft behind them now, the 2019-2020 roster is almost set and it won't be long until players begin trickling back onto the ice in Arlington for informal workouts.

With that in mind, and given the roasting temperatures outside, for four weeks NBC Sports Washington will look at 20 burning questions facing the Capitals as they look to rebound from an early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, keep alive their Metropolitan Division title streak and get back to their championship form of 2018.

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The list will look at potential individual milestones, roster questions, prospects who might help and star players with uncertain futures. Today, we look at the first month of the regular season.

Can the Caps get off to a good start despite a brutal October schedule?

There is no way to sugarcoat it, Washington's schedule to start the season is savage. The opener will be in St. Louis where the Blues will raise their Stanley Cup banner. The Caps rode the emotion of their banner-raising last season to a 7-0 win over the Boston Bruins.

Washington's home-opener comes three days later against the Carolina Hurricanes who knocked the Caps out of the playoffs. Oh, and that home-opener also happens to be the second leg of a back-to-back.

In all, Washington will play 14 games in October. Nine of those 14 will be on the road including a road trip through Western Canada, two games against a Dallas Stars team that gives the Caps fits and two more against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

That is just plain rough.

Before you despair, however, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, Washington is very good on the road. The Caps managed a 24-15-2 record away from home last season which was tied for the fifth-best road record in the NHL. The Caps play their first three games of the season in four days with the home-opener being on the end of a back-to-back. That stinks, but it is only one of two back-to-backs in the month.

What do we actually mean by a "good' start? In 2017-18, consecutive blowout losses to the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche dropped the Caps to 10-9-1 to start the season before the team really took off. In 2018-19, Washington limped out to an 8-7-3 record before finally rebounding and going on to win the division.

Looking at the October schedule, going one win over .500 would be one heck of a start.

The Caps cannot walk away from the first month with three wins out of 14 games, but even if they manage to go just .500, that's OK. It is not up to the standards we have come to expect from this team, but they have shown they can recover before.

It is a tough schedule, but October is not likely to make or break this team. Anything close to .500 would be an acceptable start. Anything above that would be a "good" one.


20 Burning Questions: Can the Caps get off to a good start despite a brutal October schedule? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

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