Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images
With fewer than 20 game remaining, the Washington Capitals (19 games remaining), the New York Islanders (18 games remaining), and the Pittsburgh Penguins (18 games remaining) are battling for the top spot in the East Division. NoVa Caps looks at the three teams’ remaining schedules as the three fight for to take the division crown in the shortened season.
The Penguins have finished their season series with the Islanders, where they went 6-2-0 (Islanders were 2-4-2). The Capitals still have two games remaining against the Penguins, whom they are 2-1-3 against this season, at Capital One Arena scheduled for April 29 and May 1 and four against the Islanders (3-1-0), including three times at Nassau Coliseum (April 6, 22, 24) and once at Capital One Arena (April 27).
After wrapping up their season series with the Devils on Sunday and heading to Long Island on Tuesday, the Capitals will alternate playing against the Boston Bruins (twice in three games – one home, one away, and three in seven – two away), the Buffalo Sabres (one away, one home) in a make-up game after their contest scheduled for February 13 was postponed due to the Sabres’ COVID-19 outbreak, and Philadelphia Flyers (one home, one away).
After a three-day break in late April, the Capitals will have a three-game series with the Islanders (which includes two games on Long Island). They will have one two-game series left against each of the Penguins (home), New York Rangers (away), and Philadelphia Flyers (home). The Capitals are scheduled to end the regular season against the Bruins on Tuesday, May 11.
Ten of the Capitals’ remaining 19 games will be on the road. Their opponents have combined for an average points percentage of .579. Their opponents for road games have an average home points percentage of .633 while the opposition teams for home games have an average road points percentage of .525.
The Capitals have three back-to-backs remaining this season, two of which feature games in different cities. Just three of their remaining games are in the afternoon (before 7 PM ET).
After flip-flopping between hosting the Capitals and Flyers for four games, the Islanders will host the Rangers for two straight at home before a three-day break. After that, they will play a back-to-back series in Boston before hosting the Rangers and then the Capitals twice during a three-game homestand. Following their three-game series with the Capitals, they will play the Rangers (home-and-home), Sabres (away), and Devils (home) in three two-game series. The Islanders will close out the regular season in Boston on May 10.
The Islanders have just eight games left at Nassau Coliseum, which could hurt them as they are a league-best 14-1-2 at home this season. Their opponents have an average .550 points percentage, including .588 on the road. The teams they face away from the Island have an average .512 home points percentage.
The Islanders have three back-to-backs remaining this season, none of which require travel. Their earliest start for the rest of the season will be at 6:30 PM ET (April 18 at Flyers).
The Penguins will close out a six-game road trip with two games at each of the Rangers and Devils before getting a three-day break. They will host the Flyers before back-to-back 3 PM ET games at the Sabres. The Penguins will then host the Devils for three straight games and Bruins for two before starting a four-game road trip with two in Washington. After playing the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on back-to-back nights, the Penguins are scheduled to close out the regular season with two home games against the Sabres.
Just eight of their final 18 games will be at PPG Paints Arena, where they are 16-3-1 this season (their 16 home wins are tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the most). That could be bad news as the Penguins are just 8-9-1 on the road.
The Penguins’ opponents for the remainder of the season have an average points percentage of .486, which is not a surprise as they have five games left against the Devils and four against the Sabres. Their home opponents have an average road points percentage of .535 while the teams they play on the road have an average .437 home points percentage.
The Penguins have just three back-to-backs left this season with the only one that requires travel — a trip across the Hudson River as they face the Rangers on Thursday and the Devils on Friday. The Penguins have four games remaining with a 3 PM ET or earlier start time.
Each team’s full schedule breakdown is below: (Click to enlarge)
The Sabres have the hardest schedule left while the Capitals have the third. The Penguins are the only team in the division with their opponents averaging less than a .500 points percentage this season. The Islanders have a slightly easier schedule than the Capitals as the two have been neck-and-neck for first for weeks.
While the Penguins have an advantage with lots of games against the Sabres and Devils left, the onus is still on them to win. The Devils have won two of the three games between the two teams so far this season, showing that there are no easy wins. The Capitals may have the hardest schedule of the three but may not be a bad thing as they look to ramp things up for the playoffs.
By Harrison Brown