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With less than three weeks left in the NHL regular season, the Washington Capitals are in first place in the East Division -- but barely. The teams holding the East’s four playoff spots as of Saturday night are only separated by six points.
Can the Caps hold on and secure the East’s top seed? Here’s everything you need to know about the playoffs and the Caps’ chances:
What is the format for the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Remember the Smythe, Norris, Patrick and Adams divisions? The NHL is using a divisional playoff format this year similar to what it used before the 1993-94 season.
The top four teams in each division earn a playoff berth.
The first round of the playoffs will feature the No. 1 seed having home ice advantage versus the No. 4 seed, and the same for the No. 2 seed against the No. 3 seed. The winner of those Round 1 series will square off in what is essentially the division final.
The four second-round winners will advance to the league semifinals, where each team will be re-seeded based on regular-season total points in a No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3 bracket. The two semifinal winners will meet in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.
Where are the Capitals in the East Division standings?
The Capitals are slated to play the Bruins, who are leading the season series against Washington 4-2-1, in their final game of the season on May 11. Here is how the tightly contested East Division stacks up following Saturday's action:
1. Washington Capitals
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
3. New York Islanders
4. Boston Bruins
5. New York Rangers
6. Philadelphia Flyers
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Buffalo Sabres
Who would the Capitals play in the first round?
The Bruins would play the Capitals in the first round if the current standings hold. Boston has a 4-1-2 record with a plus-3 goal differential in seven games against Washington this season. These teams will play one more time in the regular season on May 11.
Here are the East playoff matchups if the season ended today:
No. 1 Washington Capitals
No. 4 Boston Bruins
No. 2 Pittsburgh Penguins
No. 3 New York Islanders
What is the Capitals' remaining schedule?
The Capitals’ eight remaining games are daunting, with only four of them coming against teams currently out of the playoff mix (two-game sets each with the Rangers and Flyers). After winning Saturday night without Alex Ovechkin against the Islanders, they will close the series with New York and have to face the Penguins twice and the Bruins once more.
Tuesday, April 27
Thursday, April 29
Saturday, May 1
Monday, May 3
Wednesday, May 5
What are the Capitals' playoff odds?
The Capitals’ odds to win the Stanley Cup are currently +1400 (odds provided by our partner, PointsBet). Boston, with a much easier schedule to finish out the season, actually holds the best Stanley Cups odds in the East Division at +1100, followed by Pittsburgh at +1400, although the Capitals and Islanders are still tied at +240 for the best odds to win the division.
Check back for updates on the Capitals’ playoff chances as the season winds down.
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