James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
The 2018-19 NHL regular season is flying by, and now the hockey world is in the month of March. The Washington Capitals have just 16 games left on the slate. With the Trade Deadline in the books, it is now a sprint to the postseason dance for all hockey clubs.
The Washington Capitals are in a tough battle within the Metropolitan Division. The New York Islanders are right behind the Capitals in the standings. Behind the Capitals and Islanders, the Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Philadelphia Flyers remain the mix for the final playoff spots.
The Capitals sit just two points ahead of the Islanders, and five points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes, so there is little room for error for the Capitals down the stretch. The standings are very tight, and teams inside the division cannot afford to lose a game or have a bad week of hockey.
THE CAPITALS WILL SEE PLENTY OF THE LIGHTNING
In addition to 7 games remaining with the contenders of the Metropolitan Division, the Capitals will see the Tampa Bay Lightning three times in March.
The Capitals will visit Tampa twice on March 16 and March 30. The Lightning are scheduled to come to DC on March 20.
The Lightning have been rolling on all cylinders over the last month. In February, the Lightning had 15 games on their schedule. They scored at least a point in the standings in 14 of those 15 games.
The Lightning have 50 wins in 66 games, and look to be Presidents’ Trophy bound. The Bolts have one of the NHL’s brightest young stars with Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov will likely be a favorite to win the Hart Trophy this season. In 66 games, Kucherov has recorded 31 goals and 106 points.
The Lightning will give the Capitals a strong test down the stretch and will look to play spoiler for the Capitals hopes of winning the Metropolitan Division.
A TOUGH SCHEDULE IS A GOOD THING?
The Stanley Cup Playoffs is a grind for every team that qualifies. It is a battle of will and health to get to the middle of June.
The Capitals have plenty of competition that is around them inside the Metropolitan Division. Whether it is the Penguins or Blue Jackets or Hurricanes, the Capitals locker room knows that they cannot afford to take a night off. The Capitals have a veteran group that understands that every point is critical in the standings, especially during this point of the regular season.
With that understanding, the Capitals should stay motivated in March and early April. The Capitals should remain excited and ready for matchups against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Carolina. The Capitals could very likely see at least one of these teams in the postseason.
A tough schedule down the stretch gives the Capitals the extra motivation needed to stay engaged. The Capitals remain a favorite to win the Stanley Cup, but the first focus should be to win the Metropolitan Division and clinch a playoff berth.
The Capitals have plenty of playoff experience, and the players know what it takes to get there. The playoffs are inching closer, and it should be a fun ride down the stretch for the Capitals and the fans.
By: George Foussekis