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Capitals trying to keep up intensity as playoffs near

Caps2.jpgWashington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins Noon EST - Sunday, April 11, 2010 Live on NBC

It’s a question nearly every dominant team in sports faces as they reach the end of the regular season - how much should they rest their star players? With nothing to play for, and the team just playing out the string on the regular and waiting for the playoffs to begin, teams must decide just how much time they give their most important players.

It’s a reasonable debate. After all, the most important players on the team could get hurt in a completely meaningless game, damaging the team’s chances in the playoffs. It’s also a long, grueling season; the team has earned the chance to be able to rest and get their energy back as the postseason approaches.

The problem with this is that team’s resting don’t always put their best product on the ice. This could change playoff seedings or even playoff implications, as they mail it in against teams fighting for their season.

Imagine if the Capitals decided to rest Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin today against the Bruins, while Boston was facing a do-or-die scenario to get into the playoffs. How would the NY Rangers feel if the Bruins won, knocking them out of the playoff hunt and doing so against a team that could care less about the outcome?

Forget all that. Who cares about playoff scenarios and postseason implications. If those teams needed just one win so bad, then their season didn’t exactly go to plan anyways.

No, the issue at hand over a team resting over the final half of the season is whether they’ll be able to turn it back on once the playoff begin. After all, the Capitals have been an incredibly intense and uptempo team all season long; can they get that going again in the playoffs?

For a team like the Capitals, it’s proven to be a non-issue. Washington has won five straight games while resting some key players, and looks to have gotten over the inconsistency they were suffering through in March.

The good news is that at least the Capitals have something to play for. Their captain, Alex Ovechkin, is three points behind Henrik Sedin for the Art Ross Trophy and is tied for the lead in goals. A 2 goal, four point game would do wonders for an already incredible season.

Staying healthy? That’s priority number one, but the players on the ice won’t play any less hard than they have all season long. Winning? Not needed, but this is the Washington Capitals. They believe that any loss fuels the fire of disrespect. Getting Ovechkin the scoring title and the Art Ross? That should be motivation enough.