Caps clinch spot in 2012 Playoffs

They waited until game 81, but the Washington Capitals will be going to the NHL playoffs for the fifth-straight year thanks to a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers and a Buffalo Sabres loss at Philadelphia. 

The old saying, "It wasn't pretty," doesn't even come close to describe the '11-12 Capitals road to the playoffs. 

There were injuries to Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom, a so-called down year for superstar captain Alex Ovechkin and the firing of a coach mid-season. 

When the dust settled after Thursday night, the Capitals find themselves a win and a Florida loss away from the third seed in the Eastern Conference. 

Bizarre, yes, but that's just how this season has been in D.C. The playoffs shouldn't be any different either. Washington is without the services of their top two goaltenders with Michal Neuvirth's injury Thursday combined with the absence of veteran Tomas Vokoun. 

If the Caps win at home against the Rangers on Saturday and the Panthers lose in regulation against Carolina, the Caps will win their fifth-straight Southeast Division title. Washington, currently in the eight and final playoff spot, can move into the seventh seed in the East with a win Saturday and an Ottawa loss in regulation. 

If Washington finishes eight in the East, they will play the top-seeded Rangers in the first round. If they finish seventh, they'll face the Boston Bruins and if they win the Southeast they'll face the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. 

While the Caps are faced with a ton of questions heading into the playoffs, it's alot better to have those questions as a playoff team rather than an underachieving non-playoff team like the one they leaped in the Buffalo Sabres.

So Caps fans, go thank Philadelphia rookie Matt Read (@MReader24for helping pave the way to the playoffs.