Analyzing Potential First Round Playoff Matchups for the Capitals

The 2019 NHL playoffs are just around the corner and the Capitals are looking to defend their Stanley Cup victory back in June of 2018. The 2018-19′ season has been a very interesting and competitive one, with new teams looking to contend in the Metropolitan Division and in the wild card. Down the stretch, Washington has begun to look like the champions of last year and are currently leading the division with two games remaining. The playoffs begin on April 10, but who will the Caps face in the opening round?

Image result for Carolina Hurricanes

(Photo Credit: Sporting News)

1. Carolina Hurricanes

One of the biggest surprises in the NHL this year has been the success of the Hurricanes. Last season, Carolina missed the playoffs by 14 points and were a team that no one had to worry about. But with their rising star in Sebastion Aho, who has put up a career-high 82 points (30 Goals, 52 Assists), this team is certainly a group that no one should overlook.  Although they are a relatively young team, their captain and former Capitals player Justin Williams has a lot of experience when it comes to postseason hockey.

Currently, the Canes are sitting in the #1 wild card spot, which means they would be facing Washington in the first round if the season ended today. All four matchups this season went to the Caps but they were all close and full of playoff intensity. As of now, there is a tight race between four teams; Pittsburgh, Montreal, Columbus, and Carolina, all of which are separated by only 4 points for three playoff spots. The Canes two remaining games are against the Devils at home and the Flyers on the road. These two games should result in wins, so Carolina appears to be the likely opponent that Washington will open up their playoff campaign against.

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(Photo Credit: Hooked on Hockey Magazine)

2. Columbus Blue Jackets

Could the Caps really be on the same road to the finals as last year? Another possibility is having a first round matchup against the Blue Jackets, who the Capitals faced in the 2018 playoffs. If this rematch were to happen, Washington won’t be seeing the same team as the previous year. At the trade deadline, Columbus acquired two incredible talents that could help CBJ finally get over the bump. One of the acquisitions is center Matt Duchene, who has made a name for himself since 2009 and has 58 points this season. The second trade was for winger Ryan Dzingel, who is having a career year with 44 points.

A potential Capitals vs Blue Jackets showdown is very intriguing for NHL fans everywhere. This season, the Jackets took the season series 3-1. With CBJ seeming like they are going all in this year, Washington will have to be ready for the best and hungriest Columbus squad. The Jackets are sitting in the second wild card spot and would be playing the unstoppable Tampa Bay Lighting in the first round if the season ended now. However, CBJ is only in the playoffs by slim margin, currently tied with Montreal at 94 points. The next two games could very well determine the organization’s future with Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene, Dzingel all being free agents after this season.

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(Photo Credit: Sporting News)

3. Montreal Canadiens

Facing Montreal may give Capitals fans dreadful flashbacks to the years of always being sent home early.  However, flash forward to present day the Habs have an almost completely different squad. After a disastrous 2017-18′ campaign, the Habs have battled themselves back to relevancy. Led by Center Max Domi who has 71 points this season, Montreal could be real threat to the Caps because of the legendary Carey Price, who has the ability to take over any series.

The upcoming matchup on April 4th between Washington and Montreal has a lot on the line for both squads. The Caps have the ability to finally close the door on the Islanders and Penguins and clinch their 4th straight Metropolitan Division title. For the Habs, a loss could wound their chances at a playoff berth. The current season series between the teams is 1-1. Capital One Arena will be rocking to see their hometown heroes claim the Metro and send Montreal into the offseason empty-handed.

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