With one point, the Capitals will earn the second Presidents' Trophy in franchise history. Given the 82-game grind that is the NHL season, it is an incredible accomplishment for any team, but it's also one the Caps have already mentally moved on from.
"It's a nice accomplishment," Matt Niskanen said. "We should be proud of it, sure. We've had a heck of a year, but I don't think that was the number one goal on our list for the season. It means we had a hell of a year and we're proud of where we're at, but we're playing for something else."
Nicklas Backstrom was a bit less diplomatic.
"Honestly, it doesn't mean anything."
The first time the team won the Presidents' Trophy was in 2010. That year, the team's regular season exploits seemed to be a bit more celebrated than now, that is until the Caps lost in the very first round of the playoffs to the Montreal Canadiens in a stunning upset.
It's a season Backstrom has no interest in repeating.
"It's good to have home ice clinched through the playoff but at the same time, it doesn't matter," Backstrom said. "It doesn't even mean anything because we lost last time in the first round when we won the Presidents' Trophy."
For his part, Barry Trotz said he knew how the players felt. Coaches often work to keep their players from looking ahead, but in this case, Trotz understands why his players are already looking past being the top team in the regular season.
"When they're growing up, no matter when they started playing the game, they were playing for the Stanley Cup," Trotz said. "They never played for the Presidents' Trophy."
Winning the Presidents' Trophy does carry playoff implications as it guarantees the winning team home ice throughout, even in the Stanley Cup Finals. There's also something to be said for being the top NHL team in an 82-game stretch. In a professional league in which every game is difficult to win, that's not something that should just be dismissed as unimpressive.
The Caps have been the league's best team almost from start to finish. That's hard to do.
But no one, from the players to the coaches to the front office, no one will be satisfied with that accomplishment if it does not come with a deep playoff run.
Said Trotz, "We all would like to be in that position to play for the one Cup that we all dreamed about when you were playing on the streets or in the hallways of the house or a hotel or whatever. That's the one that we want to play for."
Lines at morning skate:
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Jay Beagle
Daniel Winnik - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson
Extras: Michael Latta, Stanislav Galiev
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Brooks Orpik
Extras: Mike Weber, Taylor Chorney
Goalies: Braden Holtby (starter), Philipp Grubauer
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