Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
After Thursday night's games, the Buffalo Sabres occupy the 14th spot in the Eastern Conference standings with 23 points, while the Caps are just ahead of them in 12th place, also with 23 points. So, the March 17 game is a great opportunity for Washington to separate themselves from their nearest conference opponent on their march up the playoff rankings.
But there is something else that makes this game so vital. This game against the Sabres is the second half of the Capitals' third set of back-to-back games since February 26. And in the second of those games, the Capitals have struggled badly.
On February 27, the Capitals lost 4-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center. And on March 10, the Capitals again lost 4-1, this time to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
After March 17, the Capitals have three more sets of back-to-back games, so they better remember how to win the second of those two games. What better time to start than on March 17 against the Sabres.
And, as if this game didn't mean enough already, it will mark the beginning of a brutal week for the Capitals, in which they play four games in six nights, the last three of which will be on the road against teams with better records.
Simply put, this stretch of games could make or break the Capitals' season.