WASHINGTON, D.C. — We have reached the final regular-season weekend. We’re experiencing that odd mix of feeling this season has gone on forever — we were back to 82 games again, after all — and feeling it’s flown by. Either way, we’ve reached the home stretch and the playoffs begin soon.
The Chicago Blackhawks know where they’ll finish in the division (third) and where they’ll be starting, sort of (on the road). Who they’ll be playing, however, remains unknown as St. Louis and Colorado battle for the top two division spots. Have fun with all that; we’ll certainly have fun watching that, because it’s going to be damn entertaining.
But back to the Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals, tonight’s opponent. The Caps were eliminated a few days ago, so this game doesn’t mean a whole lot to them. Or does it? We shall see. So while we sneak outside to see those gorgeous cherry blossoms and view a few monuments, let’s look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Caps-Blackhawks game.
1. Play like it means something. Obviously the Blackhawks want to keep winning just to remain sharp heading into the postseason. But when there’s absolutely no value to those final points that can be tricky. The Blackhawks are going to have to get past that and keep their focus on how they’ve played their past four games, all victories.
2. Keep auditioning, Mr. Morin. Jeremy Morin is playing for a postseason spot. Who knows if he’ll get it and who knows if there will be room for him on the playoff roster. But there’s no doubt Morin wants to keep playing the way he has over this final weekend. He’s earned the respect of his teammates and coaches with this last push, and he can help the Blackhawks stay sharp down the stretch.
3. Watch out for the Caps. OK, we’ll be honest: we’re going to guess the Caps are one down group right now, having been eliminated from the postseason. They’ve had some drama lately, too, with whether Jaroslav Halak did or did not want to play the Blues the other day and whether or not Alex Ovechkin quit on a play last week. Good times. Still, you always expect your opponent to be snarly, angry and determined to beat you. The Blackhawks should do that again tonight.
4. Catch the Caps early. Washington is playing the second half of a back-to-back tonight. You know the drill: get going early and put them on their heels quickly.
5. Our pick to click tonight is Andrew Shaw. Don’t have a real reason why we’re picking No. 65; we just want to, so there you go.