As the regular season winds down, the focus naturally shifts to the playoffs. It’s probably safe to say that the Washington Capitals will have the first seed in the Eastern Conference. However; what isn’t known, who will the Capitals play in the first round.
As it stands right now, the Capitals will be playing the Detroit Red Wings in the first round. On the other hand, one look at the standings, this could change very quickly. There are three teams all jockeying to hold on or to keep their standings in the Wild Card Race: The Pittsburgh Penguins, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Philadelphia Flyers.
All of these teams possess a bit of a snarl, formidable scoring talents, and a familiar face. All of which could be used against the Capitals if they do not play a full 60 minute game and start to coast.
We begin with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals have gone 2-1 so far this season with 2 games left to play with one game left to be played in Pittsburgh, and the series finale to be played in April at the Verizon Center.
Capitals fans would relish the chance of a first round playoff against their most hated rivals from the Steel City. Everyone knows about the potential of an Oveckin-Crosby match-up, however; a match-up between Evgeny Kuznetsov and Evgeni Malkin could prove to be an exciting one, with Kuznetsov’s play making ability that continues to wow Capitals fans night after night, and Malkin’s sheer determination to win, no matter what the cost.
In facing the Penguins, the Capitals may be meeting up with an old friend in Eric Fehr, provided he is healthy when the playoffs begin. Fehr may provide a little bit of an edge to help propel the Penguins to victory with his knowledge of the Capitals systems. Conversely, the Capitals do possess two former Penguins themselves in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik.
Niskanen’s booming shot from the point on the power play and in general have proven to be a big boost in the team’s production this year, and the Capitals may rely on him to quarterback the power play if they are to have success on the power play in the post season.
As for Brooks Orpik, it has already been documented several times over how important it is to have him back on the ice and in the dressing room. Orpik solidifies the veteran leadership this team already possesses.
While Capitals fans would relish the chance of first round playoff series against their most hated rivals from Pittsburgh, a matchup in Detroit could prove to be an interesting one at that.
Detroit Red Wings
The Capitals went 2-1 in the three game season series this year, scoring only 5 goals in those three games. The Red Wings, much like the Capitals are a good blend of both veterans such as the likes of Pavel Datsuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and young players such as the speedster Dylan Larkin and Petr Mrazek.
Much like the Penguins, the Capitals would face their former teammate in Mike Green, and know what his offensive capabilities are. Because of this, the Captials could very well exploit this, and use this to their advantage in shutting down the formidable defenseman. And what better way to start the play-offs than facing (and eliminating) the team that beat the Caps in their only Stanley Cup final?
A meet up in Motown would be appealing to the Capitals, but hot on the tail of the Red Wings for that last Wild Card spot are the Philadelphia Flyers. The Capitals are 2-0-1 in their season series against the Flyers, with one more game to be played at the end of this month in Philadelphia.
The Flyers are a team these days that are channeling the Broad Street Bullies of yesteryear with the likes of Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds. The Capitals would match up nicely against the Flyers, as the Capitals have a few strong wingers themselves in the likes of Chimera and Wilson that will give the Capitals a slight advantage going against these power forwards.
Again, the Capitals would be facing another former teammate in goaltender Michal Neuvirth, and while Neuvirth have a strong outing in Philadelphia’s win over the Capitals in overtime, making 27 saves, and surrendering only 3 goals.
With all that said, regardless of who the Capitals match up with in the first round, it will be a hard-fought, intense match up, and the Capitals will need to be sharp every night and ready to go.
By Andrea Sobolik