With five days remaining in the NHL’s regular season, the first-round playoff opponent for the Capitals has been narrowed down to four teams – the Flyers, Red Wings, Bruins and Islanders.
And the next two nights could go a long way in determining which of those teams will begin the post-season in the nation’s capital.
Here’s the breakdown:
Islanders: 97 points – 39 ROWs – 3 games remaining
Flyers: 91 points – 36 ROWS – 4 games remaining
Red Wings: 91 points – 38 ROWs – 3 games remaining
Bruins: 91 points – 37 ROWS – 2 games remaining
Here’s a quick thumbnail on each team:
ISLANDERS: Essentially, the only way the Caps could face the Islanders in the first round of the playoffs is if the Isles lose their final three games and the Flyers win their final four games in regulation time. The Isles can still catch the Rangers (99 points, 2 games remaining) for the third spot in the Metro standings but the Rangers can fall no lower than the seventh seed.
Thursday: at NY Rangers
FLYERS: With four games remaining, the Flyers have the greatest chance of facing the Caps in Round 1. They can finish no higher than seventh in the Eastern Conference standings and would need to win all four of their remaining games to do so. The Flyers could put a dagger to the hearts of the Red Wings with a Rivalry Night win tonight on NBCSN. If the Flyers find a way into the playoffs, they can face one of two opponents: the Capitals or the Atlantic Division champion Florida Panthers.
Tonight: at Detroit
Sunday: at NY Islanders
RED WINGS: No matter what happens tonight against the Flyers, if the Red Wings beat the Bruins in regulation Thursday night, they’ll clinch the third spot in the Atlantic Division and a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 1. Back-to-back losses of any kind to the Flyers and Bruins would drop the Red Wings into ninth place in the conference standings. Of the three teams fighting for the two remaining playoff spots in the East, the Red Wings have the most difficult schedule.
Thursday: at Boston
Saturday: at NY Rangers
BRUINS: Boston’s 2-1 shootout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night was a crushing one. With two games remaining, the Bruins likely will need to win both of their remaining games to clinch a playoff spot. Boston fans will be rooting for the Flyers to beat the Red Wings in regulation tonight and for the Bruins to beat Detroit in regulation Thursday night. If that happens, the Bruins would need a season-ending victory over the Senators on Saturday to have a legitimate chance of grabbing that third spot in the Atlantic Division.