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Capitals Win Four-Way Battle for Final Playoff Spot

The Washington Capitals capture the 16th and last playoff spot on the antepenultimate day of the season

By Clyde E. DawkinsPublished about a month ago 4 min read

There's nothing like a nice crowded playoff logjam very, very late in the season. I've seen quite a few of them in the NFL, and it was so nice of the NHL to provide one for this season. The Eastern Conference had a very interesting four team cluster in the Wild Card race, and the teams involved were the Washington Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Detroit Red Wings. They were all tight together, and they swapped the 2nd Wild Card position quite a bit. One day it would be the Wings in that position, another day it would be the Penguins, and the reason why the Flyers ended up in the Wild Card picture is because they fizzled in the last week or so.

Entering this day, the antepenultimate day of the regular season, the Capitals were in that prime position. All they needed to do was win, but they also had to keep an eye on the Wings game against the Canadiens. Meanwhile, the Penguins were watching it all on their off day, hoping that tomorrow would be a day where they could clinch that spot. The Caps were in a 1-1 tie for a while, and Detroit was down 4-3 very late. However, David Perron tied it up with 3.3 seconds left, and at the same time, TJ Oshie gave the Caps the lead over the Philadelphia Flyers. Wings went to overtime, but the Capitals score ended up holding up, making them the winners of this Fatal Four-Way battle for the 16th and last playoff spot.

Who in the hell had the Washington Capitals in the playoffs this season? This team was an absolute mess for pretty much the whole season. Luckily, for them, the Metropolitan Division (below the Rangers and Hurricanes) was a train wreck. The Caps were actually in third place in the Metro at some point because of how messed up the division was. They did fall off that perch, but they stayed afloat just long enough for them to snatch the final available playoff spot on their 82nd and last game of the season.

For the Capitals, this is their ninth playoff appearance in the last decade. As we all know, this stretch saw them fail to get past the second round and fail to get past the Penguins, until 2018--where they got past both in one fell swoop. 2018 saw them finish as Stanley Cup Champions, but since then, no playoff series victories. They were upset by the Wild Card Hurricanes in 2019, ousted by the Islanders in the 2020 bubble, eliminated by a sputtering Bruins team in 2021, and defeated by a Panthers team who hadn't won a playoff series since William Jefferson Clinton resided in Washington. Last year saw the Caps out of the playoffs, and it looked like this year would be more of the same, but fate (and a few strings of good fortune) stepped in.

There were quite a few stories within the Capitals' season (which celebrated 50 years as a franchise). The trade of longtime stalwart Evgeny Kuznetsov, for one, and Charlie Lindgren taking over the net for Darcy Kuemper. Of course, the central one is the Great Eight himself, Alex Ovechkin. We know that story: he's chasing The Great One. It looked like he was having a tough time this season, but he rebounded in the latter half and finished with 31 goals--with his 31st goal being one of Washington's two goals scored in the playoff-clinching victory. With the 31 goals, Ovechkin now has a grand total of 853 career goals, putting him just 41 goals behind Wayne Gretzky. I say he passes The Great One next season.

Here's how much the Capitals' sputtered this season. 31 goals is low for Ovechkin, yet that total led the team in goals. Even crazier, his 65 points only trail Dylan Strome (70) for the team lead. No point/game players on the team this season, and the Capitals finished with a -37 goal differential. Yikes.

As a result of the Capitals' playoff clinch, the Flyers, Penguins, and Red Wings were eliminated from playoff contention. For the Flyers, the loss to Washington was their ninth in their final 11 games of the season, going 2-7-2 in that stretch. Though the Penguins went on a huge points tear, it was still not enough, and they'll miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since a four season stretch between 2001-02 and 2005-06 (the latter being Sidney Crosby's rookie year). As for the Red Wings, they were picked by some to end their current playoff drought, but they ended up missing out via tiebreaker. Tied in points (91) with the Caps, but Washington finished with more regulation wins.

So the Capitals are locked in as the 2nd Wild Card in the Eastern Conference, and will face the New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division Semifinals. There's a 23-point gap between the teams, but Florida had a larger deficit against the Bruins, and look what they pulled off last year. I'm not saying the Caps will pull off a massive upset, but who knows?

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About the Creator

Clyde E. Dawkins

I am an avid fan of sports and wrestling, and I've been a fan of female villains since the age of eight. Also into film and TV, especially Simpsons and Family Guy.

Feel free to follow my social media:

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  • Philip Gipsonabout a month ago

    Yet another splendid sports story you've presented to the world here.

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