When the clock strikes 7 tonight and Troy Brouwer sits down in front of his television, he won’t be dressed in orange and black or holding a sign saying how much he loves Sidney Crosby.
“I would never go that far, that’s for sure,” Brouwer said. “But quietly I might give a little fist pump or high five with my kid with nobody watching.”
Locked in a four-way tie with the Columbus Blues Jackets, Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in their quest for the two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference, the Caps will be rooting for the Flyers to beat the Leafs in Philly and the Penguins to beat the Jackets in Columbus.
“Sometimes your enemies can be your friends,” Brouwer said. “If we need them to win for us to have a better opportunity to make the playoffs we’ll be watching and we’ll be cheering.”
For weeks the Red Wings and Blue Jackets held games in hand on the Capitals, who have nine games remaining. But by the end of tonight, the Caps would have played the same number of games as the Red Wings and Blue Jackets and two fewer than the Maple Leafs.
And that could make for a very interesting stretch run.
“I watch the scores,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “It’s good Montreal won [against Detroit Thursday night], but right now it’s all about us. We have to get the points and fight for a playoff spot.”
Oddly enough, of the four teams battling for those two playoff spots, there is only one occasion the rest of the season in which they play each other. That comes Saturday night when the Red Wings, who have lost two straight, visit the Leafs, who have dropped six in a row.
The only thing the Caps will root for in that contest is that it ends in regulation, preventing both teams from gaining points.
Of the Caps’ remaining nine games, none may pose a more difficult task than Saturday’s 12:30 showdown with the Bruins, who are 13-0-1 since the Capitals handed them their last regulation loss on March 1. The Bruins sit atop the Eastern Conference with 106 points, one behind the St. Louis Blues.
“It’s going to be like a playoff match because if we’re gonna be in [the playoffs] we’re gonna play against Boston,” Ovechkin said. “It’s a huge challenge for our team. It’s always fun to play against a good team who knows how to win. You get some momentum on your side if you win.”
Here's a look at the remaining schedules for Columbus, Detroit, the Caps and Toronto:
BLUE JACKETS [5 home, 5 away]
at Tampa Bay
RED WINGS [4 home, 5 away]
at St. Louis
CAPITALS [4 home, 5 away]
at New Jersey
at NY Islanders
at St. Louis
MAPLE LEAFS [4 home, 4 away]
at Tampa Bay