As there are only 17 more games until the end of the regular season, the Capitals will have some important games remaining on their schedule before they begin their quest for the Stanley Cup when the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on April 11. The team currently hold first place in the Metropolitan Division and are two points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and three ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Here are five games to look forward to before the postseason starts:
5. Friday 3/30 vs. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes are tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets with 69 points and own the tiebreaker for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals are 2-1-0 against the Hurricanes this season and have won 11 of their past 15 games against Carolina. If the Hurricanes do make the postseason, they will almost certainly draw the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning but they will need to fight off the Blue Jackets, who own a town point advantage over Carolina, and the red-hot Florida Panthers, who are one point ahead of them, in order to secure a date to the postseason.
4. Thursday 4/5 vs. Nashville Predators
The Predators were two wins away from the franchise’s first Stanley Cup last season and have potential to do more damage in the postseason this year. Nashville leads the Western Conference with 91 points, four in front of the Vegas Golden Knights. This game may not be a “four-point game” but it will be a marquee matchup that the Capitals will need to win in order to boost their confidence against a very good team before the postseason begins. The Predators won the previous matchup 6-3 on November 14 at Bridgestone Arena in the first game between the two teams and the last three meetings between the two teams.
3. Saturday 4/7 vs. New Jersey Devils
The Devils have been one of the league’s most surprising teams but have slipped since sitting first place in the Metropolitan Division in late December. They currently own the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and the Capitals may very well see the Devils in the first round of the playoffs. The Capitals are 2-0-1 this season against New Jersey and two of their best 60-minute games came against the Devils this season, both of which were 5-2 victories. The hot streaks of the Flyers and Penguins have sunk the Devils to the wild card but are only four points behind Pittsburgh with a game in hand. This will mark the final game of the season for both teams.
2. Sunday 3/18 at Philadelphia Flyers
After going through a 10-game slump in November and December, the Flyers saw a 12-game point streak (10-0-2) end this week. They have been one of the league’s hottest teams but have now dropped three straight games (0-2-1). The Flyers hold the second place spot in the Metropolitan Division and are three points behind the Capitals for top spot but the Capitals own a game in hand on the Flyers. The Capitals were 1-1-1 in their first three meetings against the Flyers and will look to even the season series against a possible second round opponent. They will also return to Wells Fargo Center since their most lopsided loss of the season, an 8-2 drubbing by the Flyers back on October 14.
1. Sunday 4/1 at Pittsburgh Penguins
How can this game not be No. 1? The Capitals and Penguins will clash for the fourth and final time in the regular season on Easter Sunday on national television. The two teams will likely meet again in the playoffs for the third straight season. Pittsburgh had the best of Washington in both of the previous series, winning in six games in 2016 before winning in seven last May. The Penguins are three points behind the Capitals, who own a game in hand over Pittsburgh. After a slow start to the season, the Penguins climbed back into playoff position and will likely make the postseason. Pittsburgh’s top players have been deadly as of late with Evgeni Malkin second in the league with 36 goals and 79 points. Phil Kessel is eighth in the league with with 74 points and has 27 goals as well and Sidney Crosby is 14th with 70 points and has 22 goals. Washington is 1-2-0 against Pittsburgh this season, dropping a 3-2 decision in the first meeting this year between the two teams on October 11 in D.C., winning 4-1 at Capital One Arena on November 10, and falling 7-4 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on February 2.
By Harrison Brown