Capitals vs. Hurricanes Playoff Preview: Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1
Good news: the Washington Capitals are Metro Division Champions. Now, the title defense can officially begin as they have home-ice advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs. They play the Carolina Hurricanes in a best-of-seven matchup for the right to move on to the next round. These teams have been division rivals since the formation of the Metro Division and many of their games have been close, hard-fought contests. Even their mascots Storm and Slap Shot are in conflict with one another. But this is the first time ever the teams have met in the playoffs.
This team is more or less the same Caps team to win the Cup last year. Aside from Devante Smith-Pelly and Jay Beagle, most of the key players who took the Caps far are still on the team. Seven players scored twenty or more goals, the most for one team in the NHL. Alex Ovechkin has 114 playoff points, an impressive total for his resume. Though the life in the series will come from the supporting cast like last year’s playoff points leader Evgeny Kuznetsov. His 72 points and 21 goals in the regular season are impressive, though he needs to play even better if the Caps are to win. Braden Holtby, whose entrance against the Blue Jackets last year turned the tide of the series, also carries the team on his shoulders if they are to replicate their impressive run this year.
The Capitals should be happy they drew the Canes in the first round. Washington swept Carolina during the regular season. Though it was not without a fight in some cases. The 6-5 shootout on December 14 set the tone for the season. After 3-1 and 4-1 wins at home, the Caps staged a comeback to win 3-2 in Carolina on March 28. But despite the sweep, the Caps know they are in for a challenge. No breaks in the playoffs as everyone is prepared to do their share.
Washington is making the playoffs for the eleventh time in twelve years, having won in the first round in ten of those years. The Canes have not qualified for the playoffs in ten years, when in 2009 they made the Conference Finals only to be swept by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Penguins. Thus, both these teams are playing with something to prove. Washington looks to show they can defend their Stanley Cup title. Carolina looks to see if they can contend with a team overhaul. Either way, this series will make a great start for the playoffs. Schedule to be announced Sunday.