Updated with points scenarios, 3 p.m.: After nearly two months of important games, the Capitals’ playoff chances ultimately rest in the outcome of their final two regular season contests Thursday against Florida and Saturday at the New York Rangers.
Although they are tied with the Buffalo Sabres, who defeated Toronto, 6-5, in overtime Tuesday night, the Capitals (88 points) sit in eighth by virtue of the tiebreaker and control their own fate. If they win out, the Capitals will reach the playoffs.
If Washington doesn’t win both of its remaining regular season contests, things get a little more complicated and the team will need help in the form of a Sabres loss to reach the playoffs. Buffalo visits Philadelphia on Thursday and then Boston on Saturday.
Simply put, though, as long as the Capitals finish the regular season with the same number of points as Buffalo, they will be in the playoffs because they hold the first tiebreaker of more regulation and overtime wins (36 to 32).
Here’s how things can play out, depending on how many of the four possible points the Capitals pick up:
— Washington remains in reach of the Southeast Division title but the Florida Panthers can clinch the crown by gaining only one point in their final two games. The Capitals can only overtake the division if they win out AND Florida loses both of its games in regulation.
— The Capitals can also get the seventh seed in the playoffs if they win out and Ottawa loses both of its games in regulation. Washington holds the tiebreaker of more regulation and overtime wins.
If the Capitals finish with:
— 92 points (2-0-0): Washington would be in the playoffs regardless of how other teams finish.
— 91 points (1-0-1): Buffalo would leapfrog Washington only by wining out and finishing with 92 points.
— 90 points (1-1-0 or 0-0-2): Buffalo would need three points (2-0-0 or 1-0-1) to leapfrog Washington.
— 89 points (0-1-1): Buffalo would only need two points (1-1-0 or 0-0-2) to leapfrog Washington.
— 88 points (0-2-0): Washington would need Buffalo to lose both games in regulation.