So now that the Detroit Red Wings (93 points) have moved two points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins, is the Caps’ first-round playoff opponent any clearer?
Not really. At least not until about 10 o’clock tonight. Maybe.
With three games remaining, the Flyers still hold the best chance of securing the eighth and final playoff spot. There is still a mathematical chance of the Flyers moving into the seventh spot in the East, but they’d have to win their final three games in regulation and the Islanders would need to lose their final three games in regulation.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s throw out the Islanders as a possible first-round opponent for the Caps and focus on these three teams:
Red Wings: 93 points – 39 ROWs – 2 games remaining
Flyers: 91 points – 36 ROWS – 3 games remaining
Bruins: 91 points – 37 ROWS – 2 games remaining
Here’s a quick thumbnail on each team:
RED WINGS: A win of any kind tonight against the Bruins in Boston would clinch the third spot in the Atlantic Division for the Red Wings, giving them 25 straight seasons in the playoffs. If the Red Wings win, the Capitals almost certainly (but not necessarily) face the Flyers in Round 1.
Tonight: at Boston
Saturday: at NY Rangers
FLYERS: The Flyers’ magic number is four points. Any combination of the Flyers getting four points in their final three games or the Bruins forfeiting four points in their final two games would nail down the eighth spot for the Flyers. A regulation home win by the Flyers against Toronto and a regulation home loss by the Bruins against the Red Wings would clinch a playoff spot for the Flyers tonight. If the Bruins win each of their final two games, the Flyers would need at least four points in their final three games to secure a playoff spot.
Sunday: at NY Islanders
BRUINS: Plain and simple, the Bruins need a regulation win tonight at home against the Red Wings if they want any chance of controlling their own destiny. The Flyers hold a game in hand on the Bruins but Boston has one more ROW than the Flyers and that is the first tiebreaker. (The Flyers won the season series, so if the two teams finish tied in points and ROWs, the Flyers are in, the Bruins are out.
With all of that said, here’s what we know can happen tonight:
If the Islanders get a point against the Rangers AND the Red Wings beat the Bruins in regulation AND the Flyers beat the Maple Leafs in regulation, the Capitals will face Philadelphia in Round 1 of the playoffs. (I think).
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