How many games do Caps need to win down the stretch?
With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins remain the only two teams in the Eastern Conference to have officially punched their tickets to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Bruins finished March on a 15-0-1 run and clinched the Atlantic Division title with a 4-2 win Saturday against the Capitals. The Penguins have clinched a playoff berth for the eighth straight season, and can win the Metropolitan Division as early as Tuesday with a home win against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Montreal Canadiens (76 games; 93 points) and Tampa Bay Lightning (75 games; 91 points) seem destined to meet in the first round of the playoffs as the 2nd and 3rd place teams in the Atlantic Division. Montreal can clinch a playoff berth Tuesday with a win in Tampa Bay or with a Capitals’ regulation loss against the Dallas Stars.
In the Metropolitan Division, the 2nd place New York Rangers (76 games; 88 points) and 3rd place Philadelphia Flyers (74 games; 86 points) continue to jockey for home-ice advantage. New York has won 6-of-7, while Philadelphia is 13-4-2 since Feb. 1.
Assuming that the Canadiens, Lightning, Rangers and Flyers will join the Bruins and Penguins in the postseason, the only two available playoff positions in the Eastern Conference are the wild card spots.
Below is a look at the remaining schedules for five of the teams that are chasing the two wild card positions.
DETROIT RED WINGS (75 GAMES; 84 PTS; 30 ROWS)
The Red Wings have won two straight to move into sole possession of the first wild card position as Detroit seeks a 23rd consecutive playoff appearance.
Mike Babcock’s team has remained in the playoff hunt despite an injury list which includes veterans Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss and Henrik Zetterberg. Gustav Nyquist has picked up the slack with 11 goals in his last nine games overall.
Games Left: 7 (3H; 4A)
Opponents in playoff position (4): vs. Boston (Apr.2), at Montreal (Apr.5), at Pittsburgh (Apr.9), at St. Louis (Apr. 13)
Opponents outside of playoff position (3): vs. Buffalo (Apr.4), at Buffalo (Apr.8), vs. Carolina (Apr.11)
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (74 GAMES; 82 PTS; 32 ROWS)
The Blue Jackets will close out the season with eight games in 12 days- the busiest stretch to end a campaign since the 1979-80 Quebec Nordiques.
Columbus’ loaded schedule is due in part to the club’s Apr.9 trip to Dallas, in which the Jackets and Stars will resume their game from March 10. The game was postponed midway through the first period after Rich Peverley collapsed on the Dallas bench.
Games Left: 8 (4H; 4A)
Opponents in playoff position (5): vs. Colorado (Apr.1), at Philadelphia (Apr.3), vs. Chicago (Apr.4), vs. Phoenix (Apr.8), at Tampa Bay (Apr.11)
Opponents out of playoff position (3): vs. Islanders (Apr.6), at Dallas (Apr.9), at Florida (Apr.12)
WASHINGTON CAPITALS (75 GAMES; 81 POINTS; 25 ROWS)
Alex Ovechkin enters the month of April looking to snap a career-long 14-game goalless drought at even strength…. The Capitals 25 ROWs (Regulation + Overtime Wins) are fourth fewest among Eastern Conference teams.
Game Left: 7 (3H; 4A)
Opponents in playoff position (3): at St. Louis (Apr.8), vs. Chicago (Apr.11), vs. Tampa Bay (Apr.13)
Opponents out of playoff position (4): vs. Dallas (Apr.1), at New Jersey (Apr.4), at Islanders (Apr.5), at Carolina (Apr.10)
[RELATED: Caps need win in Music City]
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (76 GAMES; 80 POINTS; 27 ROWS)
The Maple Leafs have lost eight straight games in regulation for the first time since Oct.19-Nov.6, 1985. Since last winning an NHL game, the Leafs have gone from 3rd place in the Eastern Conference to 10th.
Games Left: 6 (3H; 3A)
Opponents in playoff position (2): vs. Boston (Apr.3), at Tampa Bay (Apr.8)
Opponents out of playoff position (4): vs. Calgary (Apr.1), vs. Winnipeg (Apr.5), at Florida (Apr.10), at Ottawa (Apr.12)
NEW JERSEY DEVILS (75 GAMES; 79 POINTS; 32 ROWS)
The Devils have earned points in four straight games (2-0-2) to remain in playoff contention. New Jersey is a woeful 0-10 in shootouts this season and the Devils have just one shootout goal in 30 attempts.
While the Devils have ground to make up in the standings, of their seven remaining games, only one is against a team currently in a playoff position.
Games Left: 7 (4H; 3A)
Opponents in playoff position (1): vs. Boston (Apr.13)
Opponents out of playoff position (6): at Buffalo (Apr.1), vs. Washington (Apr.4), at Carolina (Apr.5), vs. Calgary (Apr.7), at Ottawa (Apr.10), vs. Islanders (Apr.11)