Adam Oates knows what the Ottawa Senators and the rest of the NHL must be thinking.
With the Capitals on a torrid eight-game win streak and in the midst of a 12-1-1 run, they are the team no one wants to face in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“That’s a good question,” Oates said as the third-seeded Caps [24-17-2, 50 points] prepare to face the sixth-seeded Senators [22-14-6, 50 points] tonight at Scotiabank Place in a possible preview of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals [7:30 p.m., CSN].
“Probably when I was younger I did that. But when you get a couple years in the league you realize it doesn’t matter. You’ve got to be ready to play whoever it is in the playoffs.
“No matter what team it is, everybody’s good. Everybody can get upset. You’ve got to focus on yourself.”
Oates knows this as well as anyone. He was on the 1992-93 Boston Bruins team that went 18-3-0 in its final 21 games, including an eight-game win steak to end the season.
“We won a lot late, but I think we got swept in the first round,” Oates recalled.
The Bruins won the Adams Division and finished that season with a 51-26-7 record, but were swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Buffalo Sabres.
While the Capitals’ 2012-13 season has been a steady climb north – they went 1-5-1 in January, 6-6-0 in February, 9-6-1 in March, and 8-0-0 in April – the Senators have been streaky.
Ottawa won five of its first six games to start the season, then lost six of its next eight. The Sens followed with a five-game win streak, a four-game losing streak, a stretch in which they went 7-1-2, followed by a five-game losing streak. Currently they find themselves on a three-game win streak.
The battle between the two nations’ capitals will resume a week from tonight in Washington as both teams look to cement their places in the Eastern Conference playoff race.