As the Capitals traveling to Pittsburgh to take on the rival Penguins Tuesday (Coverage begins 6 p.m., NBC Sports Washington), there may be much more online than just two points in the standings.
The champions of the last three Stanley Cups will fulfill in Tuesday’s game as the Caps won last year and the Penguins won in 2016 and 2017. In each of the three seasons, Washington and Pittsburgh had to play one another in the postseason in their way to the championship. However, as divisional competitions, both teams had lots of matchups from the regular season as well.
The Caps have fared fairly well against their rivals from the regular season over the past three years. In the 2015-16 season, Washington managed a 2-2-1 record against the Penguins. That rose to 2-0-2 in 2016-17. Still, the results in the postseason remained the same with the Caps falling at the second round each year. Back in 2017-18, Washington went 2-2-0 from Pittsburgh, but conquered them at the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history.
While the overall records do not shed much light, if you look a bit closer you discover that the final matchup of the season has shown key.
The Caps dropped on April 7 to the Penguins 4-3 in overtime. Marcus Johansson scored twice for Washington, but Sidney Crosby scored the overtime winner. In 2017, both teams met for the final time earlier in the season on Jan. 16 with the Caps losing in overtime , now 8-7. Washington gave up a 3-0 lead as Evgeni Malkin tallied a hat trick and Connor Sheary felt in overtime.
Things were different, however, in 2018. With the Metropolitan Division very much up for grabs, Philipp Grubauer was brilliant in net to lead the Caps to the 3-1 win.
Why does this matter? Because in each of the last 3 seasons, the winner of this final regular-season meeting between both of these teams has gone on to win the Stanley Cup.
Maybe it’s a coincidence and it doesn’t matter. But perhaps a late-season game with major implications against a bitter rival at a playoff atmosphere is a fantastic test of where a team stands heading into the postseason.
The New York Islanders sit only two points behind Washington for first place at the Metropolitan Division. Behind these, Pittsburgh is tied for third with the Carolina Hurricanes. Not only would a reduction for your Caps hurt them at the division race, but in addition, it makes a first-round matchup from the Penguins very possible.
Tuesday’s game is enormous concerning the standings, but make no mistake, this game is about a whole lot more than simply those two points.
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