After a year full of twists and turns, the 2021-22 NHL regular season is over. The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs are officially here.
For the Capitals, a deep playoff run must start by getting past the best in the East. Washington is set to face the Presidents' Trophy-winning Panthers in Round 1, as Florida led the entire league with 122 points.
Of course, the Capitals are plenty familiar with the position the Panthers are in, having won the Presidents' Trophy in 2010, 2016 and 2017. Yet, all three years the Capitals fell short in the postseason. It was the 2018 season when the Capitals were finally able to get over the hump.
For Washington, the major storyline entering the postseason is the health of star Alex Ovechkin. The 36-year-old did not play in each of the Capitals' final three regular-season contests after suffering an upper-body injury crashing into the boards against Toronto on April 24. The good news is that Ovechkin said he felt "good" following practice on Sunday. All signs point toward Ovechkin, who has never missed a postseason game in his career, taking the ice for Game 1 on Tuesday night.
The Capitals also have a goaltender conundrum on their hands entering the postseason, as neither Ilya Samsonov nor Vitek Vanecek has established themselves as the true No. 1 netminder.
In April, Samsonov played in eight games and notched a .884 save percentage with a goals against average of 3.35. Vanecek played in seven games during April and posted a save percentage of .875 and a GAA of 3.21. Head coach Peter Laviolette said he plans to keep his decision "close to the vest" as to which goaltender will get the nod Tuesday night in Florida.
There's a lot to unpack for the Capitals as they get set to start postseason play on Tuesday. NBC Sports Washington has you covered with Capitals Pregame Live one hour before each game and Capitals Postgame Live one hour after each contest. Every game will be aired on NBC Sports Washington as well.
Here's everything you need to know about Washington's opening-round series against Florida...
CAPITALS vs. PANTHERS ROUND 1 SCHEDULE
Game 1: Capitals 4, Panthers 2 - Tuesday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSW)
Game 2: Panthers 5, Capitals 1 - Thursday, May 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSW)
Game 3: Capitals 6, Panthers 1 - Saturday, May 7 at 1:00 p.m. ET (NBCSW) -
Game 4: Panthers 3, Capitals 2 (OT) - Monday, May 9 at 1:00 p.m. ET (NBCSW)
Game 5: Panthers 5, Capitals 3 - Wednesday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSW)
Game 6: Panthers at Capitals - Friday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSW)
*Game 7: Capitals at Panthers - Sunday, May 15 at TBD (NBCSW)
* = if necessary
All first-round games will be available regionally on NBC Sports Washington and streamed live on the MyTeams app.
NBC Sports Washington will also surround all playoff games with live gameday programs Capitals Pregame Live and Capitals Postgame Live. Capitals Pregame Live will be broadcasted one hour before game time. The shows will be hosted by Alexa Landestoy and feature analyst Alan May, with Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin contributing to coverage. Brent Johnson and Al Koken will make regular appearances on pregame and postgame throughout the playoffs.
NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS
No. 1 Florida Panthers vs. No. 4 Washington Capitals - Panthers lead series 3-2
No. 2 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 3 Tampa Bay Lightning - Series tied 3-3
No. 1 Carolina Hurricanes vs. No. 4 Boston Bruins - Series tied 3-3
No. 2 New York Rangers vs. No. 3 Pittsburgh Penguins - Penguins lead series 3-2
No. 1 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 4 Nashville Predators - Avalanche win series 4-0
No. 2 Minnesota Wild vs. No. 3 St. Louis Blues - Blues win series 4-2
No. 1 Calgary Flames vs. No. 4 Dallas Stars - Calgary leads series 3-2
No. 2 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 3 Los Angeles Kings - Series tied 3-3