The Caps will have to go through a tougher division to make the playoffs and then to reach the East finals. They won the Southeast Division five of the past six seasons but went 8-10-2 against the Penguins, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Flyers and Hurricanes this year.
Jason Spezza doesn't have much time to return to form if the Ottawa Senators want to extend their season.
The Penguins should feel confident — and a bit fortunate — to escape the relentless Islanders. New York dominated for long stretches in the series, using its speed to fluster Pittsburgh's talented but sometimes plodding roster of veterans.
Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma insists he still believes in Marc-Andre Fleury, that the issues for the reeling Penguins go far beyond the struggles of their Stanley Cup-winning goaltender.
Budding New York Islanders star John Tavares anticipated the open space he found so easily during the regular season to be whittled away by the Pittsburgh Penguins in their opening-round playoff series.
A year ago, Brandon Saad was just a footnote when he made his postseason debut for Chicago against the Phoenix Coyotes. He skated for just over 10 minutes in two games and picked up his first career NHL point on an assist, but the Blackhawks were eliminated in the first round.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will begin their quest for a Stanley Cup without Sidney Crosby.
Crosby said Wednesday his broken jaw will keep him out of Pittsburgh's playoff opener against the New York Islanders on Wednesday night. He said he has been given no timetable for his return. Game 2 is Friday night.
After a victory late in the regular season that included two goals by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom was asked if it felt like the "good old days" when the franchise cornerstones powered a high-scoring team. "It depends how it is in the playoffs," he said. "And we weren't that successful in the playoffs in the past."