The Bruins would be the Capitals’ opponent as the third seed if they earn a point against the Islanders on Monday at TD Garden. If the Islanders win in overtime or a shootout, the teams would be tied in points, but the Bruins would have the tiebreaker with more regulation wins.
An Islanders win in regulation, however, would give the tiebreaker advantage, this time regulation and overtime wins, to New York. In that scenario, Boston would need to earn two points against the Capitals on Tuesday at Capital One Arena to avoid falling to the No. 4 seed.
A start date for the first round has not yet been publicly announced.
The Bruins and the Islanders would present different challenges for a shorthanded Capitals group limping to the finish line. Washington is 3-4-0 against the Bruins this season. It is 6-2-0 against the Islanders, who have been known to stifle the Capitals’ offense with their defensively structured systems. New York also is led by former Caps coach Barry Trotz. It added Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri ahead of the trade deadline.
The Bruins and Capitals have had spirited matchups this season, and a postseason clash would thrust former Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara into the spotlight in his first playoff series back in Boston.
The Capitals’ goalies have struggled against the Bruins. Rookie Vitek Vanecek is 3-3-0 with a 3.19 goals against average and an .897 save percentage. Ilya Samsonov is 0-1-0 with an .872 save percentage and a 3.66 goals against average. Samsonov replaced Vanecek in a 5-1 loss to the Bruins on March 5. Vanecek was pulled after allowing four goals on 18 shots. Samsonov allowed one goal on seven shots.
Against the Islanders this season, Vanecek is 3-1-0 with a .938 save percentage and a 1.89 goals against average. Samsonov is 3-1-0 with an .896 save percentage and a 2.63 goals against average. The Capitals swept their final three regular season meetings against the Islanders in late April — including two games in three days at Nassau Coliseum.
In addition to potential matchup difficulties, Washington also has plenty of in-house issues.
T.J. Oshie was the latest player to suffer an in-game injury Saturday night in the Capitals’ 2-1 overtime win against Philadelphia. He was slow to get off the ice after an awkward collision with Nicolas Aube-Kubel late in the second period. Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette had no update on Oshie’s status after the game.
The Capitals had a day off Sunday. They will practice Monday before their regular season finale Tuesday against Boston.
Washington also is dealing with Alex Ovechkin’s lingering lower-body injury. He has missed seven of the team’s past eight games and 11 games overall this season, including four because of covid-19 protocols. The Capitals also were without Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson on Saturday night. Both were listed as having lower-body injuries.
Laviolette said after the game the team did not rest either player for precautionary reasons. If either were 100 percent, he would have played.
“You know there is always concern,” Laviolette said when asked about injuries piling up. “We had another one leave [Saturday]. There is always concern, and we will see where we are at. We have a couple days here and come back in. We got one game left that we have to get by, that we have to get through, and we will go from there.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov and Samsonov have been on the league’s covid-19 protocol list since Tuesday after neither played for disciplinary reasons in Monday’s 6-3 victory. There is no timetable for their return. This is the second time both players have been on the covid list this season.
If Samsonov is not available — or remains on the taxi squad — to start the playoffs, netminder Craig Anderson is next up on the depth chart behind Vanecek. Anderson made 28 saves in the Capitals’ 2-1 overtime win Saturday. It was his fourth appearance of the season and his first start since Feb. 21.
“I thought he was really good,” Laviolette said. “I thought he gave us a chance to win. He made big saves. Looked really confident in there. Handled the puck really well. Communicated with our defensemen really well, so he did a lot of good things in there.”
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