Winning the Presidents' Trophy isn't in the same league as taking home the Stanley Cup. But the Washington Capitals will be happy to use it as a starting point for what they hope will be a run to the first championship in their history, and they can assure themselves of the NHL's best record with at least one point against one of biggest their Metropolitan Division rivals, the New York Rangers, in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game this week (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).
It would be the Capitals' second straight Presidents' Trophy; the last team to win it before Washington was the Rangers in 2014-15. But neither team won the Stanley Cup; in fact, neither got as far as the Final. The Capitals will try to change that when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin next week.
Here are 5 reasons to tune in for a game between two teams that aren't fond of each other, no matter what's at stake:
Finishing No. 1 -- again
Washington coach Barry Trotz said this week that repeating as winner of the Presidents' Trophy hasn't been a consideration at any point during the season. But with a chance to lock up the NHL's best regular-season record for the second straight season and earn home-ice advantage for as far as they go during the playoffs, expect the Capitals to come out with a little extra juice. And, in case the Capitals need a little extra incentive, they have a chance to do it in front of their home fans.
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Washington's power play has 36 goals in its past 40 games, including one in a 4-1 victory at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday. The Capitals have scored on more than 31 percent of their opportunities during that span. The addition of defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 27 has given an already dangerous unit an extra puck-mover at the point; he has seven power-play points (one goal, six assists) in 16 games with the Capitals.
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Lundqvist will make his fifth consecutive start after returning from a hip injury. He's 1-1-2 and has allowed 16 goals. Although the Rangers all but assured of finishing with the first wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference, they need their No. 1 goaltender to find his game before the playoffs start next week. This is a perfect opportunity for Lundqvist to fine-tune his game against the League's best team.
Video: PHI@NYR: Lundqvist flashes leather on Giroux in 3rd
Unlike Lundqvist, who's trying to find his form before the playoffs, Holtby is finishing the season on a high note. He's won six of his past seven decisions, and though at 41-12-6 he won't match his total of 48 wins from last season, Holtby's other numbers are better than last season. His goals-against average is down to 2.11 from 2.20, his save percentage has improved to .924 from .922, and he has eight shutouts, a big jump from three. He's been playing some of his best hockey while the Capitals have pulled away from the pack in the League's toughest division.
If this was a game New York had to win, its lineup might look a bit different. But with the playoffs starting next week, coach Alain Vigneault has opted to give four of his key players -- defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forwards Rick Nash, Jesper Fast and Mats Zuccarello -- the night off. This gives frequently scratched players including Pavel Buchnevich and Matt Puempel a chance to show that they should be in the lineup when the playoffs begin next week.