Updated: Caps still don't know who they're playing in the first round

Chris Lingebach
April 06, 2018 - 7:58 pm
Washington_Capitals

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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With one regular season game left to play, against New Jersey on Saturday, the Capitals still don't know who will be their first-round playoff opponent.

The Caps are tied with Toronto at 103 points, but since the Caps are division winners, they'll most assuredly be the higher seed in the Eastern Conference.

That leaves a logjam of three teams -- Columbus, New Jersey and Philadelphia -- all separated by one point, who the Caps could potentially face.

"It's between those three, I think," said Jay Beagle during 'The Morning Skate with Jay Beagle,' sponsored by Sport Automotive. "And it's gonna come down I think to tomorrow's game against Jersey, so we kind of have a little bit of fate in our own hands, but we'll just see how it plays out here over the last game."

According to SportsClubStats.com, there's a 37-percent chance the Caps -- with a win against the Devils -- will face the Blue Jackets in the first round. In that scenario, they have a 33-percent chance of facing New Jersey, and a 30-percent chance of facing Philadelphia. If the Caps lose in either regulation or overtime to New Jersey, there's a 41-percent chance they face Philadelphia.

Of course, there's a slight chance those numbers could shift away from Philadelphia, thanks to a complicated tie-break scenario. The Flyers hold a four-point advantage over the Panthers for the final spot in the playoffs, but Philly only has one regular-season game remaining on its schedule, while Florida has two.

If the Flyers lose, it could trigger a waterfall of tie-breakers in which both teams are strangely neck-and-neck, with the third tie-breaker being goal differential, by which they're only four goals apart. Should Philly and Florida astonishingly finish with the same goal differential, they'd be forced to play an 83rd game to determine the final playoff team.

Whoever the Caps face, they'll likely do it with Beagle. He's missed the past two games with an upper body injury and expects to miss Saturday's regular-season finale as well, but believes he'll be back in the lineup come playoff time.

"Yeah, I'm definitely pushing for that. That's the timeframe that I'm on," he said. "I'm missing tomorrow probably and then I think I can start to skate Monday, is what they said."

"So it's kind of day-by-day right now, which is actually a good thing because it's not week-by-week, so that's encouraging," he added. "Just trying to get healthy here for either Wednesday or Thursday here when we start up."

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