On the ice, the game has become even more exciting.
But in the office, players are having to do more than just skate to get by.
The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning have become two of the most-watched sports telecasts on cable and streaming services.
Their nightly broadcasts, including a Thursday night game between the Capitals and Lightning that drew over a million viewers, has become a nightly fixture in the cable and digital ad universe.
The NHL’s television ratings, meanwhile, have soared to record highs in the last few seasons.
So, in the days leading up to the Sochi Olympics, how did the Capitals, who won their first Stanley Cup in 16 years last spring, compare to the team that went to the gold medal final?
In a perfect world, we would have watched both.
That’s not how things are, at least not for the Caps and Lightning.
Both are on the rise, having reached the Stanley Cup final the previous season, but both teams have struggled to sustain momentum in the playoffs, which has made them more of a distant memory.
While the NHL has been trying to get players to wear a visor to help improve their image, the Capitals’ captain, Evgeny Kuznetsov, has said the team will do whatever it takes to win the Cup, especially if the NHL decides to allow players to practice with it.
So the Capitals are going to keep trying to play their game, and they’re going to use all the tools they have to do so.
But the Lightning’s Erik Johnson is a different story.
The Lightning, whose team has a 1-1 record in the Stanley Series, have gone 2-4 in their last seven games.
Johnson, who has won the Stanley Trophy as the league’s best player in each of the past two seasons, is averaging just 2:18 of ice time per game, compared to 3:36 for the Capitals.
The Lightning’s goaltending woes, which include an early loss to the Bruins, have made it hard for the Lightning to keep the puck out of the net.
“They’ve been the worst team in the league this year,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
“They’ve lost a lot of games, so they’re playing with some urgency.
I don’t know if it’s the best way to go about things, but they’re trying.”
That’s what the Capitals have been trying.
On the offensive end, they have scored just 12 goals and have a minus-6 rating in seven games since losing Andre Burakovsky to an upper-body injury.
But they have gotten their offense back.
They have six goals and seven assists in five games.
The team has been able to score more goals and save fewer shots.
In addition, their penalty kill has been strong, limiting the opposition to just three goals on 49 shots.
With the playoffs fast approaching, Cooper said the Capitals will be looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
And, in that spirit, he’s looking to his players to take a page from the Lightning.
“It’s all about how we get back to that,” Cooper said, referring to the Stanley Stanley Cup.
“We’re going back to what we were before.
That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Injuries have plagued the Caps, who are coming off back-to-back losses.
Center Braden Holtby has missed two games, and defenseman Matt Niskanen is out with a lower-body ailment.
Left wing Alex Ovechkin has missed the past three games with a groin strain.
The only defenseman on the roster who has been out with an injury is defenseman Justin Williams, who injured his knee when he collided with teammate Alex Ovedigbo.
Williams has since recovered.
The Capitals are also without forward Alex Olesen (upper-body) and defenseman Andre Buraksky (lower-body).
Both were in the lineup against the Bruins.
Both have been cleared for return to the lineup.
In terms of who is healthy, the Caps have a lot to worry about.
Center Alexander Ovechnikov is on the injured reserve list.
Forward Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) and right wing John Carlson (upper body) are out with lower- body injuries.
Center Travis Zajac (ankle) is not expected to play against the Lightning and defenseman Dmitry Orlov (upper back) is doubtful to play.
And defenseman Mattias Ekholm (lower body) and center Justin Williams (upper leg) are both questionable.
As always, the Lightning will be without forward Ryan Callahan (lower back), defenseman Anthony Beauvillier (upper knee) and goalie Ben Bishop (upper hand).
The Capitals have struggled on the defensive end of the ice this season, particularly on the penalty kill.
The club has a plus-