The Washington Capitals are all set for the 2017 NHL Playoffs. They have clinched the Metropolitan Division and Presidents’ Trophy, and they will have home ice advantage in every round of the playoffs.
While several playoff matchups are already locked up and determined, the Capitals still do not know who they will face in the 1st round. It is possible that they will not know their opponent until Sunday evening.
So, who is still in the running to be the Capitals first round opponent? With one spot remaining in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, let’s look at the teams the Capitals could be facing.
The Senators (43-27-10) have 96 points and have two games remaining against the NY Rangers and NY Islanders. The Senators have won two in a row, with recent wins over Boston and Detroit.
They will likely be facing a desperate NY Islanders team on Sunday. The Senators are still competing for home ice advantage in the first round, and the Islanders are competing to clinch the final playoff berth.
The Capitals went 2-1 against the Senators in 2016-17.
The Bruins (44-30-7) have 95 points and are still fighting for home ice advantage in the first round. Their final game of the season is on Saturday afternoon against the Capitals.
Prior to the Bruins 2-1 shootout loss to the Senators on Thursday night, the Bruins won 6 straight games. The Bruins will be without the services of leading scorer Brad Marchand against the Capitals, as he is still serving his 2-game suspension.
The Capitals may rest some players against the Bruins on Saturday. It appears that John Carlson and Brett Connolly will not play against the Bruins.
The Capitals are 2-0 against the Bruins in 2016-17.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
The Maple Leafs (39-26-15) have 93 points and have lost two in a row. Their last two losses were to the Capitals last Tuesday, and to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. The Leafs will finish their season with a doubleheader over the weekend when they face Pittsburgh on Saturday and Columbus on Sunday.
While the Leafs remaining schedule is against challenging opponents, it is highly probable that Pittsburgh and Columbus will rest their star players over the weekend. This could play into the Leafs advantage on getting into the playoff picture.
The Capitals went 2-1 against the Maple Leafs in 2016-17.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Islanders (39-29-12) have 90 points and need to win out the rest of the way. The Islanders play in New Jersey on Saturday evening, and they will play in Ottawa on Sunday.
The Islanders have won four in a row, with recent wins over Carolina, Nashville, Buffalo, and New Jersey. The Islanders will have an uphill climb to the playoffs, since they are now without the services of star centre John Tavares for their remaining regular season games.
The Capitals went 2-3 against the Islanders in 2016-17.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Like the Islanders, the Lightning (40-30-10) have an uphill climb into the playoffs. With 90 points, the Lightning must win out. The Lightning will play in Montreal on Friday night, and will face the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday in Tampa.
The Lightning have struggled to be consistent late in the season. While they appeared dominant against Toronto on Thursday night, they looked horrible against Boston on Tuesday. The Lightning have been battered with injuries this year, as they have missed Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson in plenty of games this year.
The Capitals went 2-0-1 against the Lightning in 2016-17.
By: George Foussekis