The Capitals have a chance to get right against Columbus

Chris Lingebach
December 24, 2019 - 8:32 am
Capitals have a chance to get right against Columbus Friday

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals (26-7-5) are still the best team in hockey, rolling through almost all comers en route to their points lead (57) after 38 games.

The one team they've struggled with is a familiar foe in the Columbus Blue Jackets, against whom they've played their worst hockey, failing to obtain a victory in two contests.

Capitals winger Carl Hagelin – during his weekly appearance with 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, presented by F.H. Furr – was asked why Washington seems to struggle in particular against Columbus.

"As hot as you guys are and as good as you are, it seems like when you play Columbus, you guys just look like a different team," Paulsen said. "Stylistically, do they do something that gives you problems, or is it just a bad matchup?"

"It's a good question," Hagelin said. "Obviously both games against them, they've been the better team. Especially at the start of the game, you can see I think they've had almost 20 shots in the first period, and that's not the type of team that we are."

"I think they come at us pretty hard and we haven't really been able to match their urgency," he added. "But I know we're playing them again here after Christmas, so I think that's time for us to pick it up a notch."

The Caps have played Columbus twice this season, both losses in just bad, bad games of hockey for Washington. The first was a 5-2 loss at home on Dec. 9, and most recently, they were shut out 3-0 on the road in Columbus last Monday. Two regulation losses in two tries – for zero points, something the Caps aren't accustomed to in the 2019-20 season.

The Blue Jackets are a team the Caps have a history with. You'll remember – how could you forget? – Columbus stole the first two games from the Caps in D.C. during their first-round playoff matchup in 2018. It looked like another early playoff exit for the Caps, until they rallied to take four straight from the Blue Jackets en route to winning the Stanley Cup championship.

In his nine-year NHL career spanning five teams, Hagelin says every team has one opponent who, for whatever reason, just has their number.

"One-hundred percent. I think every team you play on, there's always gonna be that one team where you go, 'Oh man, we always have a tough time playing against these guys,'" he said. "It doesn't matter where they are in the standings at all."

"Even like playing Philly. Like when you played Philly with Pittsburgh, it was always such a battle every game, like a lot of hitting, very physical," Hagelin said. "And then when I played them last year here with the Caps, it wasn't the same at all. It was a little calmer of a game."

"I think each team has their own rivalry and somehow it differs compared to what team you play in the league," he continued. "And some teams are really good against one team, but might not be able to beat a team that's last in the standings.

"So it's kind of interesting how it works, and that's one of the fun parts being able to, for me, I've moved around to different teams and you kind of realize some of that stuff."

The Capitals face the Blue Jackets twice more this season, and again as soon as this Friday. We'll see if they can get right against them after a four-day holiday break.