With first place in the conference, home ice advantage, and positive momentum heading into the playoffs on the line, no March game is meaningless. Two potential points loom large regardless of whether they're coming out of the pockets of Eastern Conference playoff teams, bubble hunters, or Western Conference southern staters. But I'll be damned if games like tonight's tilt between the East-leading Flyers and the second-seeded Caps don't feel about 10 times bigger than any of the games the Orange & Black just played below the Carolinas.
With only two points separating the top two seeds in the East and four separating the top three, these points are huge.
Over the next three days, the Flyers (96) will face both the white-hot Capitals (94) and the Penguins (92). Who's got the measuring stick?
For fans and franchise alike, the Flyers will enter the playoffs with championship expectations. Anything less is entirely unacceptable, and losing a best-of-seven series to either of this week's opponents would be worse monumentally disappointing. Knowing those two fanbases as we have come to, there would be plenty of insult to heap on our injury.
So although the biggest prize tonight is two points in a close standings race, it's impossible not to watch the game wondering how these teams stack up in the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green will be out for the Caps, Chris Pronger for the Flyers, so we're not seeing either side's arsenal fully loaded (not by a long shot for Washington). But there's been a decent rivalry building between these clubs, particularly in the period since the Flyers bounced the Caps in the 2008 playoffs. I'll always remember the pizza box on Joffrey Lupul's back when the Caps fans started throwing things on the ice.
The Caps have have lost just once in the month of March. The Flyers are undoubtedly playing with something to prove as they try to pull out of a down month. Both sides should be pretty fired up when they take the ice for tonight's nationally televised (Versus) 7:30 start.
Coming off a masterful performance in Dallas, Sergei Bobrovsky is starting again tonight. With 11 games left, are we seeing the beginning of his being ramped up to be the playoff starter? Or will Lavvy keep us guessing until the final night of the regular season?