Caps' road to the playoffs keeps getting steeper

Caps' road to the playoffs keeps getting steeper
March 30, 2014, 9:30 am
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(Associated Press)

The Capitals’ road to the Stanley Cup playoffs got a little bit steeper on Saturday when, following their 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Red Wings topped the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets squeaked past the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime.

That means the Caps woke up Sunday morning in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 80 points, two behind Columbus and Detroit. All three teams have eight games remaining.

While the Leafs are still tied with the Caps with 80 points, they’ve now lost eight in a row and have just six games remaining, meaning they would likely need to run the table with six straight wins to have a shot at a playoff berth.

The Caps have not held sole possession of a playoff spot since Jan. 18 but can move back into a tie for a wild-card spot with a win tonight in Nashville.

Saturday night’s game between Detroit and Toronto marked the only time any of the four teams face each other down the stretch, eliminating the possibility of a three-point game.

Looking ahead, the Red Wings are at home today against the Tampa Bay Lightning [5 p.m.], while the Blue Jackets are off until Tuesday night when they host the Colorado Avalanche.

The Lightning will have a big say in which two teams take the wild-card openings. They are the only team that plays the Red Wings, Blues Jackets, Maple Leafs and Capitals down the stretch.

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If the Caps win tonight in Nashville and the Red Wings lose in regulation to Tampa, the Caps would move back into a three-way tie for the final two wild-card spots.

Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for the four teams chasing down the final two playoff spots in the East:

BLUE JACKETS [4 home, 4 away]

Colorado

at Philadelphia

Chicago

NY Islanders

Phoenix

at Dallas

at TampaBay

at Florida

RED WINGS  [4 home, 4 away]

TampaBay

Boston

Buffalo

at Montreal

at Buffalo

at Pittsburgh

Carolina

at St. Louis

CAPITALS [3 home, 5 away]

at Nashville

Dallas

at New Jersey

at NY Islanders

at St. Louis

at Carolina

Chicago

TampaBay

MAPLE LEAFS [3 home, 3 away]

Calgary

Boston

Winnipeg

at TampaBay

at Florida

at Ottawa