Amid impressive playoff push, Caps keep focus on regular season originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
As the Washington Capitals prepare for their late-season push into the playoffs, head coach Peter Laviolette took note of the scheduling gauntlet they’ve faced of late and will continue to see going forward.
Washington has nine games remaining, seven of which are on the road.
“I think it’s good right now, like we’re playing every other day,” Laviolette said on The Sports Junkies on 106.7 the Fan on Wednesday. “I think, including last night’s game, it’s like 10 games in 18 days. There’s no breaks in there and nothing to get away from and days off and that sort of thing. Sometimes when you play in games, I think it’s almost better for your team to get into that rhythm of just getting ready to play hockey every other night.”
Washington’s most recent stretch has been a revelation. Defeating Eastern Conference titans in Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Boston before dismantling Philadelphia, the Capitals’ have been rewarded for their hot streak with an improved status in the Metropolitan division.
Though they still sit at fourth place and in a Wild Card spot, Washington is now within striking distance of Pittsburgh for the third spot with a game in hand. Their four-game win streak is second-best in the conference behind only Florida’s eight-game rally.
“In the past five games, six games, we’ve had to play really tough opponents—I think that’s good, I think that helps build towards having a strong finish to the regular season,” Laviolette said. “The fact that we’re going on the road and have to win road games, have to win them against tough opponents—I think that’s good as well. So, I don’t mind the schedule and the way it sets up for the end of the season here, just with regard to the opponents that we’re playing and the amount of games that we’re playing.”
Washington’s next five games are all on the road. They face a few formidable foes during that span including Toronto, Colorado and Vegas. Washington’s upcoming regular-season stretch, rather than the playoffs, is the team’s sole focus.
“We’re still pushing and we’re kinda just focused on the next opponent right now and just doing the best we can to finish the season,” Laviolette said. “We’re just gonna try to keep focusing on winning hockey games here.”
And as the postseason nears, a playoff series with the rival Penguins in the Eastern Conference remains a possibility. Washington’s battle with Pittsburgh has been well documented over the last decade and a half, as it has seemed a foregone conclusion that the two squads will meet each other in the second round. Is that a potential outcome this year? Maybe, but again, Laviolette refuses to focus his energy on anything but what’s right in front of the Capitals.
“You’re gonna have to be patient, I don’t think we’ll see them in the first round. I don’t think we’ll get that matchup,” Laviolette said. “It builds for a good rivalry. There’s no question that Washington and Pittsburgh, and all the history that goes with it, and Ovi and Sid, and the fact that it’s a division rivalry makes for a great playoff round.
"That’s what I think people like watching and they like seeing when those two teams play against each other. It brings out the best and the most physical and the good and the bad and the ugly. It brings out everything, and that’s the emotion of the game and that’s what makes playoff hockey so great. Maybe down the road on that one.”