The Washington Capitals spent last weekend winning two big games against important Eastern Conference rivals. Starting this week, the Caps will head into uncharted waters against Western Conference opponents, starting Tuesday at Verizon Center against the San Jose Sharks.
Last Friday, the Caps defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 to cut the latter's Southeast Division lead to three points. On Super Bowl Sunday, Washington defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins on national television for the second time this season in a 3-0 shutout victory. With those two wins, the Caps have earned points in eight of nine games (5-1-3) and sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference as of Monday.
Washington's current position in the standings might seem odd, but so does San Jose's. The two teams are often compared; both have had the propensity to follow up regular season success with postseason failure. "San Jose East" jokes aside, the Sharks, like the Caps, are sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference. Last season, both teams earned No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences. The comparisons continue when looking at the Sharks' struggles; San Jose suffered through a 0-6-0 slide, but are 7-0-1 in their last eight, including 6-1-1 in their last eight games on the road. San Jose has won 12 of 13 against Washington with the Caps' lone win coming last season at home.
Tuesday's game with San Jose starts a stretch of five straight games against Western opponents with the final three coming on the road next week. The Caps will face the Sharks again next Thursday, but will have to go without Mike Green Tuesday. Green is unlikely to play after being struck in the face with a puck during the first period of Sunday's win. Not much is known about his health, but it seems to be precautionary, considering the Caps don't play again after Tuesday until Saturday.