Sorting out who the Caps can play next week

Sorting out who the Caps can play next week
April 26, 2013, 12:30 am
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Sudden thoughts and second thoughts as the Capitals reflect on Thursday night’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators and look ahead to their season finale against the Boston Bruins Saturday night [7 p.m., CSN]:

Who will they play?: Now that the eight playoff teams have been decided in the Eastern Conference, good luck with figuring out which one will face the third-seeded Caps in the first round.

Right now it’s the sixth-seeded Senators, but if they win their final two games against the Flyers and Bruins, and the Maple Leafs lose to the Canadiens on Saturday, the Sens would climb into the fifth spot and the Leafs would end up facing the Caps in Round 1.

The Senators, Islanders and Rangers are tied with 54 points, but if the three teams end in a three-way tie the Rangers hold an edge with one more regulation or overtime victory than the Isles and Sens, which means they’d take the sixth seed and face the Caps.

Of course, the Islanders could win their final game in Buffalo Friday night, and the Rangers and Senators could lose out, granting the Isles the chance to face the Caps in Round 1. But if the Isles lose in regulation Friday night they can finish no better than eighth and will face the top-seeded Penguins in Round 1.

In other words, we’ll all likely have to wait until Sunday night’s game between the Bruins and Senators to know who faces who next week.

Speaking of which: Although nothing is official, there is a strong chance that if the Capitals play any team other than Ottawa, Games 1 and 2 of their first-round series will be Tuesday and Thursday in D.C., with Games 3 and 4 Saturday and Monday in New York, Uniondale or Toronto.

If the Caps face Ottawa, Games 1 and 2 likely would be Wednesday and Friday, allowing the Senators ample time to recover from Sunday night’s game in Boston. That would mean Games 3 and 4 in Ottawa Sunday and Tuesday.

Rocket watch: With his league-leading 32nd goal of the season Thursday night Alex Ovechkin grabbed a three-goal lead over Tampa’s Steven Stamkos in the race for his third Rocket Richard Trophy. Both players have one game remaining. Ovechkin would need a monster game against the Bruins Saturday night to grab the Art Ross Trophy. His 54 points are two behind Sidney Crosby and Stamkos and four behind Marty St. Louis.

What’s next: The Caps are scheduled to practice at 11 a.m. Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Their final game will have major implications for the Bruins, who are tied with the Canadiens atop the Northeast Division and can finish second in the conference or fourth.