The Capitals, by virtue of their loss Friday to the Rangers, will face the Florida Panthers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Game 1 is scheduled for next week in Florida at a date and time to be determined. A full schedule release is expected soon. The Capitals will host Games 3 and 4 and 6, if necessary.
Washington finished the season in the second wild card position with 100 points, and will face the 122-point Panthers in the first round as a result. It will be the first-ever postseason meeting between Washington and Florida and the first time the Capitals will play on the road for the opening game of the playoffs since 2012.
A streak (of at least some degree) is now guaranteed to end as the Capitals have not won a playoff series since they hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2018. The Panthers have not won a playoff series since they went to the Stanley Cup Final in the 1995-96 season. To put that in context, four players on the Capitals (llya Samsonov, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Martin Fehervary, and Connor McMichael) have not been alive for a Panthers playoff series win.
The Panthers are flying high, fresh off their best season in franchise history, which included the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy.
They did so on the back of the league’s best offense, which scored 340 goals (4.14 per game), as they became the first team since the 1995-96 season and first in the salary cap era to average more than four goals per game.
Forward Jonathan Huberdeau put up a staggering 115 points on the season, second-best in the league, as the Panthers boast seven 20-goal scorers (and four 30-goal scorers).
The Capitals, for their part, went 1-1-1 against the Panthers this regular season. All three games were played in November.
Since the 2004-05 lockout, just two Presidents’ Trophy winners have won the Stanley Cup (the 2008 Red Wings and 2013 Blackhawks). Notably, in 2019, the top-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning were swept out of the playoffs by the Blue Jackets. The last six Presidents’ Trophy winners did not advance past the second round of the playoffs — a fact the Capitals know too well.
If the Capitals want to be the team to continue that trend, they’ll need to pull a big first round upset against the league’s most dominant offensive team.