Barring a major collapse, the Washington Capitals are Stanley Cup playoff bound for the fifth consecutive season. This time around, the Washington Capitals are looking to defend their Stanley Cup Championship from 2018. This is rather unfamiliar territory for the Capitals, as they are now the NHL club that has the biggest bullseye on its back.
With less than two weeks to go until the postseason, the Capitals are still in a dogfight inside the Metropolitan Division. Entering Thursday, the Capitals have just a three-point lead on the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders.
Carolina and Columbus are still competing for final playoff berths. The Capitals have a seven-point lead on Carolina, and ten-point lead on Columbus. The Capitals have one game left with Carolina, but also have matchups remaining with the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders to close out the regular season. Certainly, the games against Montreal and New York could have playoff seeding implications heading into next week.
STAY ENGAGED AND FOCUSED
With five games left on the slate, four of the five teams the Capitals face are currently in a playoff race. The Capitals have Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida, Montreal, and New York Islanders left on their regular season slate.
The schedule will not be easy down the stretch. Carolina, Montreal, and New York are three possible teams that the Capitals could face in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This tough schedule should keep the Capitals focused, since they have not clinched the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. While the top spot in the Eastern Conference and NHL belongs to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals can do themselves a favor by winning the Metropolitan Division and claiming home-ice advantage in the first round.
During this brief stretch before playoff action, the Capitals must play to their strengths and embrace the grind that is the playoffs. Every other team they face down the stretch into the playoffs is gunning for them, and they must be on their best game every night.
KEEP THINGS SIMPLE
This is an exciting time for the Capitals franchise. A good thing for the Capitals is that they have an experienced group that has been through playoff celebration and disappointment.
The Capitals know what it takes to win. They are well-experienced with playoff action, and the locker room knows what the long grind is like. During this stretch before the postseason, the Capitals can focus on some fundamentals in practice to prepare for the playoffs. With the depth the Capitals have at every position, the Capitals can also manage player icetimes better. It is important for the players to remain engaged, but be fresh. It is also important for the Capitals depth players to get more icetime in this small stretch of games before the postseason. If the Capitals can manage icetimes well down the stretch and get more players involved in the lineup rotation, it will increase their chances of postseason success.
By: George Foussekis