The Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins have different needs but the same objective when they play at Verizon Center in this week's Wednesday Night Rivalry game (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SNE, SNO, NHL.TV).
The Capitals lead the NHL with 72 points despite losing 3-2 at the New York Islanders on Tuesday. There's little question that they'll qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but their goal for now is to hold off the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Bruins also are playing the second of back-to-back games; they traveled to Washington after a 4-3 victory at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. The Bruins and Ottawa Senators trail the first-place Montreal Canadiens by nine points in the Atlantic Division. However, the Bruins have played 53 games, five more than Ottawa and the most in the Eastern Conference.
There's a lot on the line for each team. Here are 5 reasons to tune in:
Don't look now, but the top goal-scorer in the NHL during the past decade is heating up. Ovechkin scored in the final minute of the third period against the Islanders and completed January with seven goals and 11 assists in 15 games. With 24 goals in 50 games, he's likely to reach 30 for the 12th time in as many seasons since entering the NHL in 2005. His next goal will be the 550th in the NHL, and he's showing no signs of slowing down; in fact, his two-way game probably is better than it's been at any point in his NHL career.
Video: WSH@NYI: Ovechkin beats Greiss with a one-timer
Holtby had a shutout in the second half of the championship game at the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game, helping the Metropolitan Division rally to win. Last season's Vezina Trophy winner isn't likely to match his NHL record-tying 48 wins, but he's won all nine of his decisions since the start of 2017, and his goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (.930) are better than his numbers from 2015-16.
After a slow start, Marchand is on the way to setting a personal NHL high in points. He had two assists against the Lightning after back-to-back two-goal games, giving him 21 goals and 51 points in 53 games. He had his best NHL season in 2016-17 with 37 goals and 61 points. When Marchand is on the ice, expect the puck to be headed toward the Washington zone; he leads NHL forwards with 324 shot attempts, linemates Patrice Bergeron (314) and David Pastrnak (261) are second and third, respectively.
Video: PIT@BOS: Marchand breaks ahead for shorthanded tally
Kuznetsov has looked like a different player since the calendar flipped to 2017. He had a goal and an assist in the loss to the Islanders, and has seven goals and 13 assists in 15 games in January after he scored three goals and 19 points in the first three months of the season. Kuznetsov gives the Capitals another scoring option that prevents opponents from devoting too much effort to shutting down offensive stars like Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. He's a big reason the Capitals went 12-2-1 in January and moved into first place in the NHL standings.
The Bruins have dominated the Capitals since they entered the NHL in 1974. But the Capitals have had the better of play the past three seasons. Since the start of 2014-15, Washington is 7-0-0 against Boston, including a 4-3 shootout win at Verizon Center on Dec. 7, and has allowed seven goals in the seven wins. Though the Bruins are 76-45-10 with 21 ties in the all-time series, they've lost their past four visits to Washington (0-3-1).