There's a sizable amount of the Blues fandom that couldn't give less of a shit about where the Blues get seeded for the playoffs. Just get to the dance, and do your damage there. There's some reason to that: the last 2 Cup-winning teams were both 3 seeds. People like to remind us of the 2012 LA Kings, who won the Cup after just sneaking into the playoffs as an 8 seed (under the previous playoff alignment). It doesn't matter where you finish, just as long as you get to the postseason. That's been accomplished, so winning anything from here on out is pointless, unless you are after better things.
However, speaking as a fan, winning is fun. And the more you win, the more fun you have. We love fun. Also, it's not like there isn't anything to play for, or no benefit to winning. A win for the Capitals tonight will clinch them the President's Trophy for this season. They've led the league for most of the year, so that's pretty much uncontested. They deserve it. A win for the Blues tonight will help us push for first in the West. Our main opponent for that position is Dallas, and they play San Jose this afternoon. With a little help from California, we could come out of this weekend alone in first place. First means a guarantee to home ice and an allegedly softer opponent in the first round. If the Blues finish the year on top, we would likely face either Minnesota or Colorado. While I'd remain amongst the true believers in the Blues regardless of the opponent, it is a good thing to benefit from winning as many games as you can.
The Capitals were on top of the league standings for most of the season. That'll happen when you lead the Eastern Conference in goals (232 going into tonight) and also have the consensus Vezina winner Braden Holtby in net. "Holtbeast" has had a helluva season. In 60 starts, he has 45 wins and a .922 save percentage. He is 3 wins shy of the single-season record of 48 set by Martin Brodeur. He played last night in New Jersey, coming out on top 1-0 in OT, so the expectation is that the backup would start today. That backup is Philipp Grubauer, who has only played in 9 games this year. He has a 4-3-1 record and a 2.00 GAA / .930 Sv%. Nothing is set in stone, though. In the postgame, Coach Barry Trotz noted that Holtby didn't have to work too hard for the shutout (stopping 22 shots), so he might go back to the hot hand. Trotz is just as old school as Hitchcock, so stay tuned for that.
The Blues, on the other hand, had the goalie assignments already worked out in advance. While Brian Elliott is the obvious hot hand for St Louis, Coach Hitch had already announced Jake Allen to be the starter tonight. While there's no security in this job, it's good to have at least this much planned out. Jake has had to watch Moose dominate after he (and the rest of the team) shit the bed in Alberta. Both goalies will need to get reps in ahead of the playoffs, and the best team in the league will provide for a good test for the kid. He's never faced Washington in his lifetime, or if you look at it the other way, the Caps have never faced him before.
Of course, the duel in nets is far from the only story going on. This is the first match between the Caps and Blues since their trade in the offseason. Obviously, Blues fans are anxious to catch up with T.J. Oshie, while Caps fans are looking forward to seeing Troy Brouwer play. That angle for the game has ran into a slight hitch, however. Oshie missed practice on Thursday and last night's game in New Jersey due to illness. His presence in the lineup tonight is uncertain. It would be an extreme understatement to say that his absence would be a bummer. Alas, we'll have another chance when the Blues host the Capitals for the season finale on April 9th. Aside from that, there's also the delicious potential for a Caps/Blues Stanley Cup Final. Here we go, daydreaming again....that's for another day.
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Final Verse: The last Eastern Time Zone game of the regular season, Huzzah!! The puck drops at 6:00 PM St Louis time, and the GDT should drop shortly beforehand. Although, you never can tell. The TV broadcast is on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120. Come join us for the game day thread. Even if Osh doesn't play, it should prove to be a ....badass game.