The Capitals face the ever-dreaded first-round sweep Tuesday night against the Islanders, leaving some to ponder the question, "What if?"
What if the Caps had a different matchup than an Islanders team seemingly built to give Washington a hard time? Would the Caps be looking at a 3-0 series hole in the first round or would they be well on their way to an Eastern Conference semifinal?
Alan May joined the Sports Junkies to expand on that topic. And while his first choice matchup for the Caps would've been the eliminated Penguins because "they're a small hockey team," there's even another club May thinks the Caps would match up better with than New York: The Hurricanes.
"[Carolina] had different injuries, they're not as big and physical," May said. "They may be faster than the Islanders, but I just thought [New York] would be a tough matchup because we haven't seen the Capitals in the last two years really, play physical and tough, or play a nasty style of game."
May certainly has a point here. The Caps are clearly hindered by the Islanders' style of play and the Canes are down 3-1 to a Bruins team who played two games with a goalie that didn't want to be there.
Still though, why in the world would the Caps want to play a Carolina team that sent them home in the first round a year ago and gave them trouble this season as well? It just speaks to how tough the Islanders are when they're playing at the level they currently are.
"The Islanders can [play nasty]," May said. "They thump you every chance they get, they lay a body, they get back above the puck. And it's frustrating to watch because it's such an easy remedy to change the tone of this series and it's just a simple flick of the puck to the net."
It's hard to predict what would happen if the Capitals played Carolina instead of New York. Does Nicklas Backstrom still get hurt? Do they commit as many penalties and costly turnovers? Even if everything broke right, the Hurricanes still present a tough matchup.
So in the end, it's possible there never was a good matchup for the Capitals after Pittsburgh was eliminated. That's not an easy reality to overcome considering the circumstances.