Of the Capitals’ remaining eight regular season games, two over the next five days will hold significant sway over how the future unfolds.
On Friday night Washington hosts Winnipeg, which sits five points behind in 10th place. A win over the Jets, who will have eight games remaining after the contest, would go a long way toward extinguishing the possibility of the Southeast Division foe catching the Capitals in the standings.
After the 2-1 overtime loss to the Flyers, Alex Ovechkin summed up the importance of the next contest succinctly. Friday “is certainly a big game for us,” he said. “Probably the biggest game of the year.”
One that could be even more crucial is a matchup with the Sabres next Tuesday. Buffalo is only one point behind the Capitals and sits in ninth place, still very much alive in the hunt for the postseason. The Sabres face the New York Rangers on Friday and then Minnesota on Saturday before visiting Verizon Center that day.
Any cushion the Capitals can create with their games against the Jets and then Wild on Sunday would be further aided by a victory against Buffalo.
Regardless of the opponent they face on any given night, the Capitals know they cannot afford to take any game for granted. This is the time for Washington to make its move to seize a playoff berth.
“These are kind of dangerous games, too, because they’re teams that need the points, that are battling really hard for them,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s just going to be a dogfight; we’re excited for it. We’re going into every game with that mentality right now because we have to. It’s nice to get home and get in our comfortable situations, but gotta win, gotta win games.”