It’s been four years since the Capitals have been in a playoff race this late in the season and much has changed – roster, coaches, styles of play and levels of experience – since an upstart Washington edged its way into the postseason in 2008.
After a rollercoaster ride of a season with high expectations, Washington enters its final two games of the regular season with its playoff hopes on the line and much at stake tonight against the Florida Panthers.
At the minimum, Washington needs two points against the Panthers tonight to stay in control of the situation. Florida, of course, wants at least one more point to secure its first ever Southeast Division title.
“We need to play desperate, but at the same time we can’t make mistakes,” Troy Brouwer said. “We know that if they get one point they clinch the division and we need two points to say in the playoffs here. We better come out, we better have a lot of intensity, lot of desire; play very desperate and try to get an early lead and make sure that we’re taking care of the pucks as well. We can’t have turnovers; we can’t do too much and be too risky too early.”
While there are any number of scenarios that can still play out, which you can find here, there is one possibility that would allow the Capitals to clinch a spot tonight: a win over Florida combined with a regulation loss by Buffalo, which visits Philadelphia.
One thing is certain: The Capitals don’t want to leave their fate in the hands of other teams. A win tonight is the first step.
“You always have to assume [you won’t get help],” Karl Alzner said. I don’t think you can really take anything for granted. Just looking at it, if we win one and [the Sabres] lose one in regulation then we get it, so that’s pretty much all I know. But at the same time, you definitely don’t want to leave it to New York in New York.”