The Capitals officially punched their tickets to the playoffs. With a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, Washington became the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff berth. The Caps have now reached the postseason in three straight season and in nine of their last 10.
While we know the Caps will be headed to the playoffs, that's pretty much all we know.
Saturday's win gives Washington 100 points on the season, but both the Columbus Blue Jackets (98 points) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (97) are hot on their heels. Both teams hold a game in hand over the Caps. The stakes for the Metropolitan Division race are pretty high. The winner gets a first-round matchup with a wild card team. The losers will have to play one another.
If you were annoyed by the Caps and Penguins meeting in the second round last season rather than the Conference Finals, well, imagine if they have to play in the first round instead.
As for who the second wild card team could be, that race remains tight between the Toronto Maple Leafs (79 points), New York Islanders (78) and Tampa Bay (77). The Leafs not only have the edge in points, they also hold a game in hand over both the Islanders and Leafs. That makes Friday's loss for the Lightning a critical one.
The race for both the Metro Division and the second wild card are tight ones and they may come down to the wire. So while the Caps know their season won't be ending on April 9 in the regular season finale, there's still plenty left to be decided and plenty left for this team to play for until then.
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