Pregame #1: Washington Capitals at Atlanta Thrashers (10/08/10)

Washington Capitals (0-0-0) at Atlanta Thrashers (0-0-0)
Philips Arena
Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV: Comcast SportsNet (Game On!)
Radio: XM
Previous Games: (none)
Games Remaining:
Oct 23, 2010  ATL@WSH    7:00 PM ET
Nov 14, 2010  ATL@WSH    5:00 PM ET
Nov 19, 2010  WSH@ATL    7:30 PM ET
Dec  4, 2010  ATL@WSH    7:00 PM ET
Jan 26, 2011  WSH@ATL    7:00 PM ET
Game Promotion:
Chick-Fil-A Family Pack (4 tickets and 4 combos, starting at $85)
Familiar Faces of Former Capitals: (none)

The Washington Capitals head to Philips Arena for the first of six contests against the Atlanta Thrashers. Finishing last season with 83 points, 10th overall in the Eastern Conference, the Thrashers busied their offseason with a flurry of trades which increased their depth substantially.

The Caps took all six of last season’s contests against the Southeast Divisional foe, outscoring their opponent 29 to 13; and look to extend the streak into 2010-11. Over the course of Atlanta’s existence, they’ve perennially been victimized by Washington, who has won .629 % of the meetings (34-18-5). 

While there are questions as to where Atlanta’s goals are going to come from following Maxim Afinogenov‘s departure to the KHL, most eyes look in the direction of last seasons’ 24-goal scorer Nik Antropov, the contest will be a good marker to judge what works- and more importantly what doesn’t- as DC starts its quest toward the Cup. I expect some flubs as lines are tinkered with, game plans are altered, and call-ups get a taste of NHL action.

Make the jump to learn more about what to watch for as the Caps start on their road to the Cup!

Three Things To Watch For:

Opening Night Jitters: For the opening game of the season, the Capitals currently own a 17-17-1-0 record. While batting .500 might not seem terrible, their record drastically decreases to 9-22-3-0 in first games of the season played on the road. DC has kept with the trend since the lockout, playing 4 of 5 openers on the road, earning a 2-2-0 record – including splitting two opening nights in Atlanta in 2007 and 2008. 

Between the Pipes: With Semyon Varlamov moved to the IR, all signs point to the 3 Million Dollar Man, Michal Neuvirth to be between the pipes for the Capitals on Opening Night. The former “Blank-Czech” looks to continue the success of his back-to-back AHL championship seasons in Hershey, in one of which he was the Calder Cup MVP in 2009.

Neuvi, 22, played in 17 games with the Caps last season, posting a 9-4-0 record, posting a 2.75 GAA and .914 Sv %.  He is 3-0-0 in 3 games against the Thrashers, stopping 102 of 108 shots for a .944 Sv % and a 2.01 GAA.

The Atlanta Blackhawks: In 11 seasons of existence, the Atlanta Thrashers have never won a playoff game. As part of the remedy for their playoff woes, the Thrash traded for the motley crue of Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd (whose name is also on the cup from his time in Carolina), Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and prospect Akim Aliu in two seperate deals – all of whom were members of the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks squad of 2010. With Buff’s move back to the blueluine, the addition of Chris Mason in net, and the maturation of Zach Bogosian, Johnny Oduya and Tobias Enstrom, Atlanta has a new look defensively and should improve on their 5th worst 3.05 GA/G from last season.

In the spirit of opening night, we decided to have a lil’ contest where you pick who scores the first Captials’ goal of the night, and in which period – you win one of our awesome Capitals shirts!