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While the Capitals benefit from having multiple days to rest and practice prior to the start of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, they also must wait to see who they will play.
There are still a number of possible opponents Washington could face in its Eastern Conference semifinal series, which may not start until Friday or Saturday, and Coach Bruce Boudreau won’t know which foe to exclusively prepare for until Tuesday or Wednesday.
“This is a good two days — if guys needed two days off, they have it — but we’ll be working the rest of the week. We’ll work harder once we know who we’re playing,” said Boudreau, who was asked if he’s watching the other series. “They’re on every night. We’re scouting every game. It’s a little extra work, but in the end, we’ll know who.”
Here’s a rundown of potential second-round opponents:
Buffalo Sabres: Long story short, the Capitals will play the team with the lowest seed that advances on to the second round. So if Buffalo manages to defeat Philadelphia in Game 7 of that matchup on Tuesday night, the Capitals will play the Sabres. It’s that simple.
Washington is 3-0-1 in its season series against Buffalo, which is another defensive-minded squad like the Rangers with another potentially game-altering goaltender. Ryan Miller has a .925 save percentage, a 2.61 goals-against average and a pair of shutouts in six games against the Flyers thus far.
The Sabres are riddled with injuries, though. Jason Pominville (leg), Tim Connelly (shoulder) are both expected to miss Game 7, and plenty of others are banged up.
Montreal Canadiens: If Philadelphia defeats Buffalo and the Canadiens can come back from down three games to two to capture their series against Boston, the Capitals would get a rematch against Montreal.
The Capitals went 3-0-1 against Montreal, which plays Game 6 against the Bruins Tuesday. If necessary, Game 7 would be Wednesday. The Canadiens, have lost three straight, including consecutive overtime losses in Games 4 and 5, and have yet to win a game at Centre Bell this postseason. They’re a different team than the one that knocked the Capitals out in the first round, but it’s difficult to count them out against rival Boston just yet.
Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning: If both higher seeds Philadelphia and Boston win their respective series, Washington will face the winner of the Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay showdown.
The Lightning staved off elimination by trouncing the Penguins, 8-2, in Game 5 in Pittsburgh, but they will need to win three consecutive games in order to advance. Game 6 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Tampa, where Pittsburgh has already claimed two victories.
In the regular season, Washington went 3-0-1 against Pittsburgh and 4-1-1 against Tampa Bay, but there would be plenty of intrigue against either team as the Capitals have some history — and a little animosity — with both.