The Washington Capitals officially punched their ticket to the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday, and they still have seven games left in the regular season to shake up the standings and possibly set up an easier first-round matchup. However, for captain Alex Ovechkin, there isn’t much emphasis on which team Washington will draw in the first round.
Ovechkin explained to the media following Monday’s morning skate that the team is ready to finish the season strong and prepare for the playoffs. However, when it comes to avoiding a tough competitor like the Florida Panthers given their position in the standings, the team isn’t overly concerned with that task.
“You know, the most important thing we clinched,” Ovechkin said. “In playoffs, it doesn’t matter who we gonna play against. It’s totally different game, it’s totally different atmosphere.”
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Right now, the Capitals sit three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the Metro and three points behind the Boston Bruins for the first Wild Card spot. Washington has won five of its last six games and has been red-hot heading into the postseason. The team has managed to score at least three goals in six straight games, including at least eight goals in two of its last four outings.
This will be the Capitals’ eighth consecutive trip to the playoffs and their second under head coach Peter Laviolette. Laviolette’s 79 postseason victories rank 15th in Stanley Cup Playoffs history. In the last three years since Washington won in 2018, the team has seen three straight first-round exits.
“As a hockey player you want to fight for playoffs, you want to fight for Cup,” Ovechkin said. “Obviously we take first step… just have to be smart and get ready for first round.”
If the season were to end at this moment in time, Washington would draw Florida in the first round. The Panthers lead the Eastern Conference with 114 points.