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Penguins, Capitals still have plenty to play for

Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), from Russia, collides with Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) during the third period of Game 1 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Saturday, May 2, 2009 in Washington. The Capitals won 3-2. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)


Whenever the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals play against each other, it feels like a mini-event. Tonight’s game might not have the same pizazz, spunk or crunchiness for the simple reason that it makes no difference to the Capitals ... at least from a standings standpoint. Something tells me that the team can always clear out the cobwebs for their partners in headlines, though. Still, there’s no doubt that this game means more to Pittsburgh. Most importantly, they are in a neck-and-neck race for the Devils for the Atlantic division title (and, as I discussed earlier, they’re fighting with New Jersey and Buffalo for the second seed).

If Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau needs bulletin board material, here are a few nuggets. As notes (H/T to Puck Daddy for that link), the Capitals have the opportunity to sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time. Let’s not forget, either, that Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos are battling for the Rocket Richard trophy to boot. So, in other words, Ovechkin and the Capitals can point to more trivial accomplishments while Penguins fan look back fondly at Stanley Cup victories and Crosby polishes his gold medal (to people polish gold medals?).

All snark aside, there’s a decent chance that this won’t be the last time the two teams meet - if we’re lucky enough to get yet another Penguins-Capitals playoff series this year. Yet if one or both of the teams falter, this will be the last chance to add another chapter to the much-hyped rivalry. Maybe that won’t be enough to get both teams to play at their maximum level, but it certainly will make the game worth watching.