As the Capitals sit and watch games and await their second-round opponent, here’s a quick primer on who that opponent could be. Given that the Stanley Cup Playoffs reseed, it could be the Sabres, Canadiens, Penguins or Lightning – as the Caps couldn’t meet the Bruins or Flyers until the Eastern Conference Finals.
Here’s how each team could punch its ticket to Verizon Center for later this week:
This one’s easy – if the Sabres beat the Flyers on Tuesday night in Philadelphia, the Caps get Ryan Miller and Buffalo. They’re banged up with injuries to Jason Pominville (cut leg) and Tim Connolly (upper body) and don’t have much of defense to speak of, so the Sabres are considered the easiest matchup for Washington.
If the Flyers beat the Sabres and the Bruins finish off the Canadiens, Pittsburgh can set up the rivalry series by beating the Lightning on Wednesday at Consol Energy Center in Game 7. Sidney Crosby (post-concussion symptoms) may or may not be back for any second-round games, but Pens-Caps always has sizzle.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning erased a 3-1 deficit to set up Wednesday’s Game 7 in Pittsburgh and likewise would need the Flyers to beat the Sabres and the Bruins to end the Canadiens’ season. It would be a rare matchup of two Southeast Division teams in the playoffs and could help build up the rivalry between Washington and Tampa Bay.
The Habs have an uphill battle to get into the second round, but they would get a playoff rematch with the Caps if they beat the Bruins in seven games and the Flyers survive against the Sabres. Montreal no longer has Jaroslav Halak, but Carey Price can steal a series. And as Eric Fehr said last month, playing in Montreal “can do a lot of crazy things to you.”