- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 19, 2002

The Washington Capitals went to Raleigh, N.C., to gauge themselves against a team that went to the Stanley Cup finals last season, a team widely forecast as the one to beat this year in the Southeast Division.
Washington passed that test Thursday night, winning 2-1 against a Carolina Hurricanes team that knew it had to set a tone early against the Caps or play catch-up.
This afternoon will be another measuring stick for Washington. The Caps will meet the Flyers in Philadelphia, and they would like to see how they stack up against a team that is usually picked to be in the Cup finals.
"A lot of people picked the Flyers to win the Eastern Conference, and I'm curious to see how we rate against them," coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We have a feeling of how we are against Carolina; now we have to do the same thing against Philly."
The Caps allowed 21 shots to get through to Olie Kolzig in the first period and fell behind for the third straight game Thursday night but nonetheless put together their best 60 minutes of the season.
"It was our most complete game anyway," Cassidy said. "All the elements were there the big guys [Peter Bondra and Jaromir Jagr] coming through, special teams were good, goaltending was solid those are the things that are going to win you games on a regular basis."
In fact, noted Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice, "the goaltenders [Kolzig and Kevin Weekes] were the two best players on the ice, no question."
But that was Thursday. Today is Philadelphia, where the Flyers have been feasting on the Caps since 1974, winning two out of every three games no matter where the games were played.
The Caps enter the game in a slightly unusual position, at least for them at this time of the season. They have a 3-0-0 record, winning each by one goal and winning two on the road. Today is the third game of an eight-game road swing.
The Caps have a history of starting poorly, then finishing with a flourish to sneak into postseason. That didn't work last season. The team started out as poorly as it normally does, but its siesta lasted longer than usual. By the time someone rang the bell to wake the club up, it was too late.
This season's start is one win short of the club's best ever in both 1997-98 and 1991-92. The more recent team wound up going 7-1-0, outscoring the opposition 30-15; the team 11 years ago got off to an 8-1 start with a 13-goal edge.
"Obviously, I'm happy at 3-0," said Cassidy, who is coaching his first NHL season. He said he doesn't have a lot to say about the start because he doesn't think in those terms.
But Kolzig, who appears to have overcome his demons of a season ago and returned to the form that helped lead the team into postseason year after year, is pointing to bigger things even though he vows not to let matters get out of hand.
"It's playoff hockey already," he said. "We want to make up as much ground in October and November as we can so we don't have to play desperation hockey from January on."
First things first. The Caps are on an 0-9-1 run in Philadelphia and have not beaten the Flyers anywhere since Jan.28,2001, a 4-2 victory at MCI Center.

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