Washington Capitals: A Quick Look Ahead at Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs

Josh McCainSenior Writer IApril 11, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 23:  Jason Arnott #44 of the Washington Capitals celebrates the Caps first goal of the game against the New York Rangers in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 23, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
Len Redkoles/Getty Images

Now that the Philadelphia Flyers have defeated the Buffalo Sabers, there are only three possible teams for the Capitals to face in round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Because the NHL reseeds teams in the playoffs the Montreal Canadians (6), Tampa Bay Lightning (5), and Pittsburgh Penguins (4) are all possible opponents for the Caps.

Obviously being the lowest seed left in the Eastern Conference, the Habs would play the Caps if they finish off the Bruins in tonight's game seven.

For players and fans alike, this might be the most desired match-up for a second round opponent.

This isn't because of any match-up advantage the Capitals have over the Canadians, no, this one is personal.

Last year general manager George McPhee said it was Stanley Cup or bust for the Caps and the Habs busted them out of the playoffs with a first round win.

The Habs were the first eight seed to knock out a one seed after being down three games to one.

Even after a dominating series win over the New York Rangers, the bitter pill of last year's loss to the Habs is still present within the fan base and I'm sure some of the players still have it fresh in their minds as well.

Carey Price has played well in net for the Canadians, allowing more than two goals only twice in the series so far against Boston.

Much like the next series I'm going to talk about, this one has been hard fought and is going to a game seven.

In spite of some brilliant saves by Price to keep the Habs in games, the toll of this long series could spell disaster against a rested and revenge-seeking Capitals.

The new defensive minded Caps squad proved that they could take on a rough a aggressive team in the first round and still manage to create scoring chances, sealing the series up early.

Like their opponent Boston, Montreal has only managed more than two goals twice in the series, and with the way Michal Neuvirth has been playing in net with his goals against average at 1.38, I'd say that the Habs would be in for one short series.

Now if the Bruins close out the series tonight in Boston, the Caps would play the winner of the Lightning vs. Penguins game tonight.

As a fan, I'd rather see Pittsburgh come to town for a couple of reasons.

First off, they're vulnerable right now.  Evgeni Malkin is out for the remainder of the season and Sidney Crosby has yet to return from his concussion and it's looking like his season is over as well.

Also, it was just two years ago the the Pens bounced the Caps from the playoffs on their way to winning Lord Stanley's Cup.

Now of course if the Caps play the Pens and beat them we'll have to endure all the talk from Penguins fans about how the series would have been different if Malkin and Crosby were in the lineup.

That's fine, but in spite of those injuries the Penguins have played just fine against a tough Tampa Bay Lightning team.

I think the Caps match-up quite well with both teams, and on paper, a series against either should be a breeze.  However, the Lightning did pitch a couple of shutouts against the Caps this season and have been quite the thorn in their side.

Also, the Penguins are 7-1 lifetime against the Capitals in the post season series (hence why we hate them so much).

So regardless of how well the Caps are playing right now, both these teams sort of have the Caps number.  The Pens in the play-offs and the Lightning the regular season.

Regardless, I think the Caps could end a series with the Pens or Lightning fairly quickly. 

Like I said, the Penguins are without their two best players, and even though Marc Andre Flurry is a beast at times in net, I think the Caps (like they did to Lundqvist) will just put too many shots on net for him to be the victor.

And as far as the Lightning go, this Capitals team isn't the same one Tampa kicked around before the All-Star break.  They made some key trades for guys like Jason Arnott and seem to have totally bought into their new defensive scheme.

Also, guys who in past playoff series have been nonexistent for the Caps (Mike Green and Alexander Semin) are playing like men possessed out there.  Both have been firing wicked shots on net and have been leading the charge.

If these two, along with the rest of the team, keep it up, it should be a lengthy postseason for the Caps.

Not trying to overlook their possible second round opponent, but I think the Caps could find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals this season.