The Washington Capitals went 9-3-1 in March. Though they were dismantled by the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night, they also beat them twice earlier in the month.
The team needed a solid stretch because April’s slate is brutal. Fortunately, there seems to be enough of a cushion (15 points) between the final wild-card spot, where they comfortably sit, and the Columbus Blue Jackets below them. The wild card might be where the Capitals stay, given the month ahead.
Capitals Have Tough April
Washington is getting some rest after playing three games in four days. For a veteran team, every extra minute to recover is vital. A full week is spoiling them, however.
During March, the Capitals ranked fourth in point percentage (.731), 11th in goals per game (3.54), and fourth in power-play percentage (32.5%) in the NHL. They earned 19 points but still failed to gain ground on the rest of the division because the Metropolitan is hot as a whole. With what’s to come, making up eight points on the Pittsburgh Penguins and 14 points on the Hurricanes for the crown will be difficult, with only 14 games remaining in the regular season.
Washington has nine games against potential playoff teams – some comfortably in a position – in April, three of which will be part of a late five-game road trip. Also, eight of the matchups are versus teams who rank in the top-10 in points, including two against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Capitals are ranked 11th.
Prepping for the Playoffs
April begins with games against the Minnesota Wild and Tampa Bay Lightning. Washington hosts both, but the team plays substantially better on the road (more on that later). The Capitals lost their previous meeting against the Wild, 3-2 in overtime, and in two contests against the Lightning, Washington is 0-1-1, averaging a measly 1.50 goals per game.
Their next two games are against two of the hottest teams in the league: the Boston Bruins and rival Penguins. The squads are 8-2-0 and 6-3-1, respectively, in their last 10 contests. Washington is pointless in two games versus Boston this season and posts a 2-1-0 record against Pittsburgh.
April’s first matchup with the Maple Leafs is sandwiched between winnable games versus the Philadelphia Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens. They need those victories heading into a wicked five-game swing away from Capital One Arena.
Capitals’ Tough Road Ahead
As mentioned, Washington is much better on the road this season than at home. In D.C., they are 16-14-5, but away from the district, they are 21-7-5. They must use this as a confidence booster to get through April’s road trip.
|Opponent||Date||Opponent’s Point %||Head-to-Head|
|New York Islanders||4/26/2022||.523||2-0-0|
|@ New York Islanders||4/28/2022||.523||2-0-0|
|@ New York Rangers*||4/29/2022||.684||1-1-0|
The aforementioned first game vs the Maple Leafs begins the road trip. After the game against the Canadiens, the Caps head to Denver to face the league-leading Colorado Avalanche on April 18. Two days later, they travel to Vegas to play the Golden Knights, who are a point out of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference at the moment. They finish against the Arizona Coyotes but will likely be tired from skating the gamut and traveling.
They play Toronto once more, then have two games against the New York Islanders before facing the same rival they opened the season against, the New York Rangers.
Capitals Will Keep Wild Card
It’s possible the Capitals go .500 during the April stretch, which is why the wild card seems to be the most feasible spot for them to be seeded heading into the postseason. They play very good teams, but they also have a decent record against the top half of the league.
Anthony Mantha will be key to their preparation for a hopeful run. He’s been playing well since he returned from shoulder surgery, and the fan base expects big production from him in what will be the second playoffs of his career.
Also, acclimating Marcus Johansson and Johan Larsson into the lineup will be key, just like any last-minute trade deadline newcomers. Johansson has played four games since starting his second stint as a Capital and has zero points and a minus-2 rating. Larsson has been dealing with a lower-body injury since Jan. 25 and has yet to play since making the move.
Staying in the wild card position isn’t the worst thing for the Capitals. They are better on the road, and they should be confident if they match up with the Hurricanes; they are 3-1 against Carolina this season. Also, no one should forget that Peter Laviolette has led two lower seeds to the Stanley Cup Final. In 2010, the Flyers made it as a seven-seed, and in 2017, the Nashville Predators were an eight-seed.
Though April may appear brutal on paper, Washington still has the postseason to look forward to, and this may help prep them for a run.
Carl Knauf is an author and master journalist (so the degree says). He specializes in sports–primarily hockey–music, and the publishing industry. His sports writing has been featured on The Hockey Writers, Last Word On Sports, and local newspapers in his home state of New Mexico. Carl covers the Washington Capitals with accurate reporting and detailed analysis to help readers answer basic and burning questions such as, “Why did the Capitals not win the Stanley Cup (again)?”
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