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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018 projection: Caps keep hold of first place

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USA Today Sports

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018 projection: Caps keep hold of first place

With the playoffs less than a month away, it's time to start looking at possible first round matchups.

With a 7-3 win over the New York Islanders, the Caps kept pace with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division race.

Here's a look at the first round matchups as they stand now:

Metropolitan Division
1. Washington (87 points, 70 GP, 37 ROW)
W1. Columbus (81 points, 71 GP, 32 ROW)

2. Pittsburgh (87 points, 72 GP, 39 ROW)
3. Philadelphia (81 points, 71 GP, 33 ROW)

Atlantic Division
1. Tampa Bay (100 points, 70 GP, 42 ROW)
W2. New Jersey (80 points, 70 GP, 31 ROW)

2. Boston (96 points, 69 GP, 41 ROW)
3. Toronto (91 points, 71 GP, 35 ROW)

Still in the hunt:
Florida (77 points, 68 GP, 32 ROW)

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-ISLANDERS

Despite slumping in February and earning only two points on the California road trip, Washington still has the inside track on first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps are tied with Pittsburgh with 87 points and have two games in hand. A lot can change in 12 games, but for now, Washington looks like they are in good shape to keep that top spot.

The wild card, however, is very much in flux.

As of the time of writing, Columbus would be the matchup for the Caps. Washington certainly has had the Blue Jackets' number for much of the season going 3-1-0 in four games, though the most recent matchup was a 5-1 blowout loss for the Caps in Columbus. The Blue Jackets have also won six straight games and could very easily overtake the hot and cold Flyers in the coming days.

Remember when the division was a three-team race with the Flyers hot on the heels of Washington and Pittsburgh? Well, the seesaw that has been Philadelphia's season has now tipped once again with the Flyers losing seven of their last eight games. With Columbus, a New Jersey team that just beat Nashville and Vegas on the road and a Florida team that has won nine of its last 11 all chasing the Flyers, it certainly looks like Philadelphia is destined to slide into the wild card if they make the playoffs at all, something that is not a foregone conclusion.

The Blue Jackets may be the matchup now, but if things keep trending the way they are, Columbus seems likely to move up into third place with either the Devils or the Panthers taking the first wild card. Those are the two teams for Caps fans to watch in the coming days.

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Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Alex Ovechkin said the Caps would return to Washington with a tied series. The Caps captain is a man of his word as the Caps won both Game 3 and Game 4 to even up the series at two games apiece.

John Tortorella had no answers after seeing his Columbus Blue Jackets fall in Game 4, but he will have to figure things out quickly as the series shifts back to Washington for a pivotal Game 5.

The Caps return home with two straight wins and all the momentum. There's just one problem: No one seemingly can win at home.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 5

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 3:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC.

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 on NBC Sports' live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 5 on Saturday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. ET in Washington. The series is tied 2-2.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 2:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 2:30 p.m. Tune back to NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 6:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

2:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
2:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
3:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Blue Jackets on NBC
5:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
6:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 5 is available to stream live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Now it's a series

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Now it's a series

The Caps looked to be in real trouble after blowing leads and losing in overtime in both Game 1 and Game 2.

After two straight wins, however, Washington is in control against the Columbus Blue Jackets as the series returns to Washington, D.C. for Game 5. 

On the latest eipisode of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir talk about what changed for the Capitals between Game 2 and 3, as well as resetting their series predictions.

And as always, they answer several viewer questions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page