Apr 2, 2012, 10:44 AM EDT
While the Washington Captials’ primary focus is simply making the playoffs — they can clinch with a win tonight in Tampa and a Buffalo loss Tuesday night against Toronto — the team can’t help but wonder if something larger is within reach.
According to CSN Washington’s Chuck Gormely, it definitely is.
The Florida Panthers have lost six of their last seven, opening the door for a once-improbable notion — Washington winning its fifth straight Southeast Division banner.
The Capitals would need any combination of six points gained by the Caps or lost by the Panthers. That means the Caps can clinch the division title by winning their final three games against Tampa, Florida and the Rangers no matter what Florida does because they hold the first tiebreaker on the Panthers with more non-shootout victories.
However, if the Capitals lose in regulation tonight and the Panthers win at home against Winnipeg on Tuesday, the Panthers would go five points up on the Caps and clinch the Southeast, regardless of Thursday night’s outcome between the two teams.
Here’s another look at the remaining schedules for the Caps, Sabres and Panthers:
Capitals (88 points) Sabres (86 points) Panthers (91 points)
at Tampa Bay Toronto Winnipeg
Florida at Philadelphia at Capitals
at NY Rangers at Boston Carolina
(NOTE: We realize Gormely’s math is a little off. Even if the Caps beat Florida, the Panthers can still finish with 95 points with wins over the Jets and ‘Canes. The Caps, meanwhile, can only hit a maximum of 94.)
As it stands, Washington can finish in three positions — third, seventh or eighth — and based on regular-season results, it might actually serve the Caps best to finish as the N0. 7 seed and play Boston in the first round.
The Capitals 3-1 against the Bruins this season, compared to 1-2 against the Rangers (who would be their first-round opponent if they finish eighth) and 1-1-2 against the Devils (who would be their first-round opponent if they finish third.)
- Tough times in Tampa: Garrison out 3-4 weeks after ‘pretty dirty’ Abdelkader hit 8
- Playoff watch — what the bubble teams need to do 15
- NHL on NBCSN: Stakes high for Kings, ‘Hawks tonight 15
- Blackhawks’ Sharp: ‘We knew we had to get two points’ 12
- Video: Brian Engblom takes a puck to the head 13
- Flames jump back into third in Pacific, beat Preds 6
- Letang concussed, Penguins will dress five defensemen 18
- NHL on NBCSN: Sharks desperate for wins, Penguins seek definitive end to slump 7
- Video: Bolts lose Garrison, Paquette in loss to Wings 4
- Bruins ruin Lundqvist’s return 28