Hurricanes blowing in after loss to Islanders
Washington will get Carolina in the first round of playoffs
The score on the Capital One Arena jumbotron wasn’t nearly as interesting as the ones that would flash on the screen hanging from the rafters. The Washington Capitals needed 81 games to secure the top seed in the Metropolitan Division, so the 82nd one resembled that of an exhibition contest – three regulars getting the night off with nothing at stake against the New York Islanders on Saturday.
The games that could actually affect Washington in the postseason were in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Ottawa; the Capitals entered the evening’s slate of games with three different possibilities for a firstround playoff opponent. While Washington lost to New York, 3-0, with forwards Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie and defenseman John Carlson out of the lineup, the team kept on eye on the action elsewhere in the league.
The Capitals finished their season with 104 points,, and a night that started with the Penguins, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets all as possible first-round matchups went down to the wire. Carolina’s win over Philadelphia along with Pittsburgh going to overtime with the New York Rangers means Washington will play the Hurricanes to start its defense of the Stanley Cup championship.
After the Capitals clinched a fourth straight division title on Thursday night with a win against the Montreal Canadiens, coach Todd Reirden approached his top-minute players to make collective decisions about whether they should be in the lineup for the finale. Carlson was a natural candidate for rest after he’s logged the most time on ice on the roster with a career-high 25:04 per game, and Washington’s top blueliner finished the season with 13 goals and 57 assists for a first 70-point campaign. Oshie felt the game off would also save him a day of recovery on Sunday, and that would ultimately help him most in preparing for the first playoff game.
The three watched the game in the team gym downstairs, and asked how much he would pay attention to the Capitals versus their possible first-round opponent, Backstrom said, “I’m probably going to watch our game first and make sure we play a good game, but obviously you’ve gotta check the scores to see who we’re going to get.”