By Peter Hassett and Ian Oland
The Washington Capitals won three consecutive games — all against Eastern Conference teams ahead of them in the playoff picture — last week. The Caps beat the (as of now) fifth-seeded Lightning 4-3 on Wednesday, the sixth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 on Saturday, and the seventh-seeded Boston Bruins 4-2 on Sunday.
The big wins gave the eighth-seeded Capitals 90 standings points and brought them within four points of the Penguins with two games in hand — a hard to imagine scenario even a month ago. While the Capitals have a playoff spot all but wrapped up — they only need seven or eight more standings points in their next 11 games to clinch the final wild-card spot — getting higher than the eighth seed is possible but unlikely despite the recent hot streak.
Here are the Eastern Conference standings as of Monday afternoon.
The Capitals’ chances of playing against the Florida Panthers (the best team in the league this season) in the first round decreased by only three percent after the weekend wins while the Capitals matching up with the Rangers increased by seven.
According to hockeyviz, the weekend barely nudged Washington's chances of dodging the Panthers in the first round. pic.twitter.com/Prfx5SG3os
— Good Tweet Pete 🌮 (@peterhassett) April 11, 2022
How could the Capitals avoid playing the best team in the league and risk their fourth consecutive first-round elimination? Pulling a weaker opponent, especially the New York Rangers, rests on passing Boston and/or Pittsburgh in the standings.
Boston is probably the easiest team for Washington to catch. They have a tough stretch with two games against the Blues, two against Pittsburgh, one against the Panthers, and a finale in Toronto.
Boston’s remaining schedule
|Tue Apr 12||STL||0.65|
|Thu Apr 14||OTT||0.40|
|Sat Apr 16||PIT||0.64|
|Tue Apr 19||@||STL||0.65|
|Thu Apr 21||@||PIT||0.64|
|Sat Apr 23||NYR||0.69†|
|Sun Apr 24||@||MTL||0.35|
|Tue Apr 26||FLA||0.75|
|Thu Apr 28||BUF||0.43|
|Fri Apr 29||@||TOR||0.69†|
Pittsburgh’s final stretch is easier than Washington’s. They play the Islanders twice, Boston twice, the Red Wings, Flyers, Oilers, and Blue Jackets — with half of those games on the road.
Pittsburgh’s remaining schedule
|Tue Apr 12||@||NYI||0.53|
|Thu Apr 14||NYI||0.53|
|Sat Apr 16||@||BOS||0.66|
|Thu Apr 21||BOS||0.66|
|Sat Apr 23||@||DET||0.46|
|Sun Apr 24||@||PHI||0.40|
|Tue Apr 26||EDM||0.62|
|Fri Apr 29||CBJ||0.51|
Washington also plays the Islanders twice, but they’ve got a difficult, five-game road trip with the Leafs, Avalanche, and Golden Knights. The Caps will also host the Leafs and finish their season with a date against their best playoff matchup, the New York Rangers.
Washington’s remaining schedule
|Tue Apr 12||PHI||0.40|
|Thu Apr 14||@||TOR||0.69†|
|Sat Apr 16||@||MTL||0.35|
|Mon Apr 18||@||COL||0.76|
|Wed Apr 20||@||VGK||0.58|
|Fri Apr 22||@||ARI||0.34|
|Sun Apr 24||TOR||0.69†|
|Tue Apr 26||NYI||0.53|
|Thu Apr 28||@||NYI||0.53|
|Fri Apr 29||@||NYR||0.69†|
Overall, Boston’s opponents on average have won 59 percent of available standings points. Pittsburgh’s won 54 percent, and Washington’s won 56 percent. Also, Washington has more games on the road — and here’s where we warn not to let road-home split trivia confuse ourselves.
If we want Washington to finish higher in the standings, we probably want those two Boston-Pittsburgh games to end in regulation with the same team winning each.
† – Editorial note: nice.
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