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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: Capitals to face Lightning in Eastern Conference Finals

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2018: Capitals to face Lightning in Eastern Conference Finals

The Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning are ready to hit the ice in the 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Finals to determine which team will advance to the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final.

The Capitals' return to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 1997-98 season, the same year the Capitals advanced to their first and only Stanley Cup Final. Washington exercised its playoff demons, defeating the Penguins in Game 6 to earn the right to face the Lightning.

Tampa Bay qualified for its third NHL Eastern Conference Finals in four years having defeated the Boston Bruins in Game 5 on Sunday, winning the series 4-1. The Lightning enters the Eastern Conference Finals with an 8-2 record in the 2018 NHL Playoffs. 

The Lightning, champions of the Atlantic Division, finished the 2017-18 NHL regular-season with an Eastern Conference-best 113 points (54-23-5) and enter the Eastern Conference Finals with an 8-2 record in the 2018 NHL Playoffs.  The Capitals, champions of the Metropolitan Division, finished the 2017-18 NHL regular-season with 105 points (49-26-7) and enter the Eastern Conference Finals with an 8-4 record in the 2018 NHL Playoffs.

The Capitals and Lighting met three times during the regular season. 

T.J. Oshie scored twice in the Capitals' 4-3  overtime loss to the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Monday, Oct. 9. The Capitals defeated the Lightning a month later at Capital One Arena with a 3-1 victory on Friday, Nov, 24. The regular-season series finale between the Capitals and Lightning took place at Capital One Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 24, with the Lightning scoring the 4-2 win in regulation. With the victory, the Lightning took the regular-season series from the Capitals, 1-1-1.

The Capitals and Lightning have met twice before in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with Tampa Bay emerging victorious both occasions.  In 2003, the Lightning bounced the Capitals from the first round of the playoffs, 4-2. The Lightning then eliminated the Capitals from the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs in a four-game semifinal sweep following Washington's grueling seven-game series with the Rangers.

Game 1 2018 NHL Eastern Conference Finals will take place in Tampa, Fla., but the date and start time are still to be determined.

NBC Sports Washington will broadcast official pre- and postgame coverage of the 2018 NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals with Caps Faceoff and Caps GameTime preceding Capitals vs. Lightning puck drop and Caps Extra and Caps OverTime following the end of each game. 

You can stream the entire 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs online using the NBC Sports App.

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    CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST: GAME 6

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    Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Suddenly the Caps are in need of a head coach

    Less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup, the Caps are in need of a new head coach.

    Barry Trotz resigned as the Caps coach on Monday after he and the team failed to reach an agreement on a new contract. How did we get here and where do both parties go from here? JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break it all down.

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

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    7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

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    USA TODAY Sports

    7 things to know about Capitals head coaching candidate Todd Reirden

    For now, Todd Reirden appears to be the frontrunner to be the new head coach of the Washington Capitals.

    But who is he? 

    Here are some things to know about the Capitals head coaching candidate:

    1. Reirden spent the last four seasons with Washington on Barry Trotz's staff

    Should Reirden be hired, he would bring a measure of familiarity with him few teams get after a coaching change. Reirden was hired by Trotz in 2014 when Trotz was putting together his staff. He was brought in to coach the team's defense and immediately improved the blue line.

    In the year prior to Reirden's hiring, the Caps allowed 2.74 goals per game, good for only 21st in the NHL.

    Here is what the defense has done in Reirden's four years in charge of the defense:

    2014-15: 2.43 goals against per game, 7th in the NHL
    2015-16: 2.33 goals against per game, 2nd in the NHL
    2016-17: 2.16 goals against per game, 1st in the NHL
    2017-18: 2.90 goals against per game, 16th in the NHL

    In those four seasons combined, Washington allowed 2.45 goals per game, lower than every team in the NHL but one. He was also in charge of the team's lethal power play.

    2. Reirden has been a head coach before

    While he may never have been a head coach in the NHL, Reirden does have some head coaching experience.

    Reirden was promoted to head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2009 when Dan Bylsma was promoted to head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. While head coach, Reirden led the team to a 55-43-8 record.

    3. Reirden came to Washington from the Penguins

    Reirden joined the Penguins organization in 2008 as an assistant coach with their AHL affiliate and took over as head coach later that season. He joined the Penguins' playoff staff during the 2009 Cup run. He was promoted to a full-time assistant coach under with the NHL team under Bylsma in 2010 and was there for four years until Byslma was fired. Reirden was not initially fired, but was allowed to seek other opportunities. When he was officially fired, the Capitals hired him the same day.

    4. Reirden had a lot to do with Matt Niskanen signing with the Caps

    Reirden was hired by the Caps on June 25, 2014. On July 1, Matt Niskanen signed with Washington.

    Reirden and Niskanen developed a strong relationship while in Pittsburgh. Niskanen dealt with confidence issues after getting traded from Dallas to Pittsburgh in 2011. Under Reirden's tutelage, Niskanen developed into a top-pair defenseman. Niskanen's agent said at the time it was "no secret" that Reirden and Niskanen had bonded while both were in Pittsburgh.

    Brooks Orpik also signed with the Caps as a free agent that year, the second defenseman from Pittsburgh to sign in Washington showing the level of respect they felt for Reirden.

    5. Reirden nearly became the head coach of Calgary

    Reirden interviewed for the head coaching job in Calgary in 2016 and was considered a finalist for the position before eventually losing out Glen Gulutzan.

    Gulutzan was fired by Calgary after the 2017-18 season and is now an assistant coach in Edmonton while Reirden is the frontrunner to become the head coach for the defending Stanley Cup champions. Sounds like things worked out for Reirden.

    6. The Caps have been grooming Reirden to be a head coach

    Reirden was promoted to associate coach in August 2016 after Calgary had passed on him. Since then, the Caps have not allowed him to interview with other teams for head coaching positions. The implication was clear, this was someone the team wanted to keep.

    "You know I think we’ve been grooming him to be a head coach whether for us or someone else," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan Monday.

    7. Reiden played in 183 career NHL games

    Reirden was a defenseman drafted in the 12th round by the New Jersey Devils in 1990. After playing four years at Bowling Green, Reirden went pro with several seasons in the ECHL, IHL and AHL. He made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers in the 1998-99 season. Reirden would also play with the St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers and Phoenix Coyotes. 

    For his NHL career, Reirden scored 11 goals and 46 points in 183 games.

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