Where the NHL, Capitals stand amid extended shutdown

Chris Lingebach
April 21, 2020 - 5:05 pm

How's this for some perspective? If the NHL season never halted, the Capitals would be into the third week of the Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule by now.

In reality, the Caps played their last game on March 9, atop the Metro Division with 90 points, when the league ground to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus epidemic.

In the meantime, the NHL continues to explore all options while waiting for the go-ahead from authorities to resume its season. A week ago, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said players would need two to three weeks to get back into playing shape.

As for the Capitals, head coach Todd Reirden is nothing if not for an over-preparer. Whenever – if ever – the season resumes, the Caps will be ready.

"Our strength and condition coach and I, we talk every few days to get the workouts ready for the guys," Reirden told The Sports Junkies this month, presented by Sheehy Auto Stores. "We send the guys at-home workouts. Every week they get a new one and it's really well done by Mark Nemish and his staff."

Even if the season were to resume with the start of the postseason, Reirden is far along into his game-planning for their would-be opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes.

"Obviously it's a team that we're familiar with from last year, obviously, and it would be a good one for us to go against if that was the case," he said. "We feel we owe them one after last year."

"That's a team that we do know, that we did better as the year went on against them, finding a different way of making some systematic adjustments, a little bit of our style of play," he said. "And then more looking at the intricacies of power play, penalty kill, special teams, late-game situations against them, the way things that they want to do."

Reirden is in the dark as anyone on how this bizarre situation will end. The closest comparison he could muster was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, which saw the league truncate its regular season to 48 games.

"It's gonna be so interesting to see how it comes about," Reirden said. "Because, for example, the last time there was a big stoppage like this, it was totally different because the players were skating and it was in 2012-13."

"I went back and looked at my itinerary from then when I was coaching," he said. "Like, I already have my six-day plan for if we... if we were to go tomorrow and be able to have six days before we played our first game, the schedule's done. I'm already done with stuff that I know that our team needs to work on and needs to get ready. Like, I'm ready to go from that standpoint.

"But I think it's gonna end up being longer than that because the players haven't been on the ice, and that's the one thing that you just cannot simulate, is the fact that these guys have not been on the ice and the chance of ramping it up right to playoff speed I think will be very difficult on their bodies and hard on some of the muscles that you're not able to train by not being on the ice. There's some you can simulate, but there's nothing like getting on the ice."