Last season, the Caps spent the better part of the last month of the regular season playing meaningless hockey games. This season, the Metropolitan Division was the most competitive in the NHL, producing four 100-point teams. As a result, the Caps were playing meaningful hockey games right up to Wednesday night when they nailed down a second straight Metropolitan Division title and a second straight Presidents' Trophy when they blanked the New York Rangers 2-0 at Verizon Center.
That leaves Washington with just two meaningless games to play to finish out the 2016-17 regular season slate. The first of those games takes place on Saturday in Boston when the Caps make their lone visit to Beantown this season to take on the Bruins.
And while the game has no real meaning for the Capitals, it does have meaning to the Bruins. Boston has clinched a berth in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, but with a win over the Caps today, the Bruins would ensure that they don't face Washington in the first-round of the playoffs this spring.
Video: Two-Man Advantage 4/8/17
Washington carries a three-game winning streak into Saturday's game, and the Capitals are 10-1-1 in their last dozen games. For the Caps, the idea now is just to keep playing their best hockey in these last two tune-ups before the playoffs get underway in the middle of next week.
For Caps coach Barry Trotz, that encompasses a lot of elements of his team's game.
"That we're playing with a lot of place to our game," says Trotz, "that we're playing with a lot of detail, and in terms of structurally detailed, not be loose - loose on plays and loose with the puck - everything from bad changes to our decisions as an F3 in our zone, or our exits, making sure our exits aren't too soon, things like that.
"Those are going to be important because I think if we can just continue to play the right way, those habits will carry. We talk about every moment counts when you're playing as a professional, and we take a lot of pride in that. We just want to play the right way."
Video: Trotz talks before #CapsBruins
Still A Force - Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara celebrated his 40th birthday a couple of weeks ago. Now finishing up his 19th NHL season, Chara is clearly on the backside of his prime, but he is still an impactful player for the Bruins.
Playing on the team's top defensive pairing with rookie Brandon Carlo, Chara is averaging 23:15 in ice time per night. While that figure is four or five minutes south of the average nightly workload Chara assumed during his prime, he still leads the Bruins in ice time and ranks in the top 30 in that regard among all NHL defensemen.
While Chara doesn't play much on Boston's power play anymore, he averages 3:45 worth of shorthanded ice time per night on the league's best penalty-killing unit. And that's half a minute per night more than the next closest defenseman in the league in shorthanded ice time, New Jersey's Ben Lovejoy (3:15).
Finally, Chara has once again reached double-digit goal totals despite netting just one goal on the power play this season. He has had 10 seasons with 10 or more goals, and has totaled 188 goals over the course of his 1,349-game NHL career.
In The Nets - We're expecting to see Philipp Grubauer in goal for the Capitals on Saturday in Boston. Grubauer's last start came on Tuesday in Toronto when he earned his 12th win of the season in a 4-1 victory over the Maple Leafs. Grubauer came within 68 seconds of shutting the Leafs out before Mitch Marner's late power-play goal spoiled the bid for his fourth whitewash of the season.
On the season, Grubauer is 12-6-2 with three shutouts, a 2.07 GAA and a .926 save pct. In one career start against the Bruins, Grubauer is 1-0-0 with a 0.96 GAA and a .971 save pct.
Anton Khudobin is expected to get the net for Boston on Saturday afternoon. After an early season upper body injury landed him on injured reserve, Khudobin spent much of the rest of this season yo-yoing between Boston and AHL Providence.
In 15 NHL games this season, Khudobin is 7-5-1 with a 2.56 GAA and a .906 save pct. During his career against the Capitals, Khudobin is 4-2-1 with a shutout, a 2.41 GAA and a .923 save pct. in seven appearances. He has claimed four of his 51 career NHL wins at Washington's expense.
All Lined Up - Neither side conducted a morning skate prior to Saturday's matinee match, but here's how we expect the Capitals and Bruins to look when they take to the ice for Boston's final game of the regular season:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams
28-Carey, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky
26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson
74-Carlson (lower body, day-to-day)
72-Vatrano, 37-Bergeron, 42-Backes
12-Stafford, 46-Krejci, 88-Pastrnak
52-Kuraly, 51-Spooner, 39-Beleskey
28-Moore, 20-Nash, 23-Karlsson
6-C. Miller, 25-Carlo
26-Liles, 86-K. Miller
11-Hayes (lower body)
47-Krug (lower body)
55-Acciari (upper body)
59-Schaller (lower body)