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Stanley Cup Playoffs 2017: NHL Playoff bracket projection heading into final day

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2017: NHL Playoff bracket projection heading into final day

UPDATE: The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoff bracket is officially set. Click here

The final day of the 2016-17 NHL season is here, which means the Stanley Cup Playoff picture is coming into focus. The Capitals are all set, having clinched home-ice advantage, the Metropolitan Division title and the President's Trophy.

But they still don't know who their first-round opponent will be. That's because the Toronto Maple Leafs still have one game left, and the result could impact who the Capitals play in the first round.

The Capitals play the Florida Panthers at 7:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, and by the time the game ends, they will know who their opponent is.

That's because the Maple Leafs face the Columbus Blue Jackets at 6:00 p.m. ET.

Here is what we know: The Maple Leafs (40-26-15, 95pts) and Boston Bruins (44-31-7, 95pts) have clinched spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

We also know that the New York Islanders (40-29-12, 92pts) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (31-30-10, 92pts) have been eliminated from the playoff race.

The Capitals, Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers are all locked into their playoff seeds.



If the Maple Leafs win or take the game into overtime, the Capitals will face the Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Maple Leafs will face the Ottawa Senators.

If the Blue Jackets beat the Maple Leafs, the Capitals will face the Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Bruins will play the Senators.


Eastern Conference (As of Saturday night 4/8):

1M Washington Capitals (118pts) vs. WC2 Boston Bruins (95pts)

2M Pittsburgh Penguins (111pts)  vs. 3M Columbus Blue Jackets (106pts)

1A Montreal Canadiens (103pts) vs. WC1 New York Rangers 100pts)

2A Ottawa Senators (98pts) vs. 3A Toronto Maple Leafs (95pts)

Western Conference (As of Saturday night 4/8):

1C Chicago Blackhawks (109pts) vs. WC2 Nashville Predators (94pts)

2C Minnesota Wild (104pts) vs. 3C St. Louis Blues (97pts)

1P Anaheim Ducks (103pts) vs. WC1 Calgary Flames (94pts)

2P Edmonton Oilers (99pts) vs. 3P San Jose Sharks (97pts)


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How the Caps turned a sure loss into their first home win in under 90 seconds

How the Caps turned a sure loss into their first home win in under 90 seconds

WASHINGTON -- Another sloppy defensive performance looked like it would doom the Capitals, but a furious three-goal rally in the second period turned what looked like a sure defeat into a stunning 4-3 victory, their first at home this season, over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

Toronto took an early lead off a short-handed goal from Kasperi Kapanen. Jonas Siegenthaler then was slow to react to a streaking Ilya Mikheyev who torched him to put the Leafs up 2-0. Jakub Vrana made it 2-1 late in the first, but Toronto looked like they had this game well in hand.

But the Caps rallied and completely turned things around in a stretch of just 1:18 in the second period. Here's how.

Brilliant skating by Kuznetsov

Kuznetsov passed the puck up to the offensive blue line. A skating Carl Hagelin tapped it to John Carlson who entered the zone, pulled back and handed it off to Kuznetsov who took over.

When Kuznetsov gets the puck there are three Maple Leaf players in front of him. He pumps the legs once and then glides in on net and somehow he is behind all three players and in alone on Michael Hutchinson.

Kuznetsov’s speed virtually never changes during the play. There’s no frantic, choppy acceleration, just a smooth glide that allows him to skate in, wait out Hutchinson and tuck the puck around his outstretched pad all in seemingly one fluid motion.

The forecheck pays off 11 seconds later

T.J. Oshie beat out Morgan Rielly in a footrace for the puck in the offensive zone. He circled in the corner to protect the puck with his body from Rielly. He was able to find Nicklas Backstrom in the high slot and Backstrom snapped the puck in.

In a period of just 11 seconds, the Caps had changed the score from 2-1 Leafs to 3-2 Caps.

The flustered Leafs

Momentum is a real thing. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. That was on display in the second period when the Leafs were on their heels after coughing up two quick goals. Just 18 seconds after Backstrom’s goal, Nicholas SHore was called for interference on Oshie.

Do you know how you get two goals and draw an interference penalty in less than a minute? By keeping possession of the puck. Toronto could not get its hands on it at all until Cocy Ceci did on the penalty kill...and promptly threw the puck into the crowd on an attempted clearance from the defensive zone resulting in a delay of game penalty.

A 5-on-3

Ceci’s penalty came just nine seconds after Shore was booked resulting in a two-man advantage for 1:51. The Caps were too hot at that point to not convert. The power play moved the puck very effectively and, critically, managed to retain possession after every shot. The Leafs just could not get there in time to clear it allowing the Caps to take their time, set things up and attack.

The power play shifted with Carlson making his way over to the Ovechkin spot. Ovechkin was fed the puck at the point, faked the slap shot and instead tapped the pass over to Carlson. Carlson did his best Ovechkin impression and fired the one-timer past Hutchinson. That goal made the score 4-2 and capped off an incredible 1:18 stretch in which the Caps turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead, thus ultimately snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Toronto would score a late goal in a comeback attempt but ultimately fell short.


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Capitals score three goals in 90 seconds to take the lead over Toronto

Capitals score three goals in 90 seconds to take the lead over Toronto

The beginning of Wednesday's clash with the Maple Leafs was not pretty for the Capitals.

A pair of goals by Toronto gave them an early lead midway through the first period. But a snipe by Jakub Vrana towards the end of the first frame cut the deficit in half entering the first intermission.

But during the second period, all of a sudden, a switch flipped for the Capitals attack. Washington found the back of the net three times in under 90 seconds, turning a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead.

The first came from Evgeny Kuznetsov, who finished with a beautiful move to sneak the puck past Maple Leafs' goalie Michael Hutchinson's glove.

Just 11 seconds later, Nicklas Backstrom found the back of the net on a beautiful wrister from T.J. Oshie to put the Capitals ahead.

To complete the trifecta, John Carlson's one-timer from Alex Ovechkin went right in between Hutchinson's legs, giving the Capitals a 4-2 lead. 

At the end of the second period, the Capitals hold the same 4-2 lead. Just 20 minutes separate the Capitals from their fourth victory of the season.