After weeks of rumors and talks between the NHL and players association, there is finally a start date for the 2021 NHL season. Each team will be playing 56 games, with the Washington Capitals announcing they will start the season on Jan. 14 against the Buffalo Sabres.
While players have been returning to the region over the past few weeks, training camp won’t officially start until Jan. 3. The Capitals regular season will run from Jan. 14 to May 8, with the start of the playoffs starting the next week.
Along with the shortened season, additional changes have been implemented due to the pandemic. The first will be the new division alignments throughout the league. This year, the Caps will be playing in the East division, which will include the Boston Bruins, Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. Teams will only be playing opponents within their division, to limit travel across the country.
Also, all teams will be playing two-set games against the same opponent in the same arena. So, when the Capitals open the season in Buffalo on Jan. 14, they will also be playing the Sabres on Jan. 16 before traveling to the next city.
There will also be a change in playoff formatting. The first two rounds of the playoffs will be intradivision games. The four winners will go through reseeding in the semifinals based on their regular season points totals, which means it isn’t a guarantee that a Western and Eastern Conference team will play against each other in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Going into the shortened season, fans should watch Alex Ovechkin’s standing on the all-time goal scorer list. Right now, Ovechkin has 706 career goals and is eighth in most career goals in NHL history. Depending on his play, he has the opportunity to move up three to four spots on the list depending. Former Capital Mike Gartner sits seventh all-time on the list with 708 goals.
Game times for the regular season will be announced at a later date. While the NHL is not instating a blanket ban on fans, it will follow the government’s guidance for each city, like the NFL. All Capitals games can be heard on 106.7 The Fan, Caps Radio 24/7 and WashingtonCaps.com.
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