The Washington Capitals controlled their own destiny with the second wild card spot until they didn’t.
After getting outscored a combined 9-2 in two consecutive games against the New York Islanders, the Capitals’ lost that right. Now their only hope of avoiding the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs rests in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ hands.
Friday night the Capitals play the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden and the Penguins play the Columbus Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins, who own the third spot in the Metropolitan Division, have 101 standings points. The Capitals, who are in the second wild card spot, have 100 points.
The only way the Capitals will overtake the Penguins for third is if they beat the Rangers and the Penguins lose in regulation. If the Capitals and Penguins tie in overall standings points, the Penguins own the tiebreakers.
If the playoffs started today, the Penguins would play the second seed in the Metro, the Rangers, and the Capitals would go over to the Atlantic Division bracket and face the first seeded Panthers.
The Capitals went 1-1-1 against the Panthers during the regular season and were outscored by Florida 13-12 overall in the season series. Meanwhile, the Penguins were dominated by the Rangers, losing three of four games and being outscored 11-4. The Penguins fared much better against Florida (1-1-1 record, 10-11 GD).
Both games could be a toss-up depending on who actually plays in the games. The Capitals, Penguins, and Rangers could all choose to bench their superstars in the game to keep them healthy headed into the postseason. Alex Ovechkin has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury. Capitals analyst Alan May said in the NBCSWSH postgame show that he anticipates Connor McMichael taking Nicklas Backstrom’s spot in the lineup. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin could also both sit for the Penguins.
Tomorrow night will determine it all. Who would you rather the Capitals play?
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