Fair to say that there are weightier games on the schedule Wednesday night than the third of four regular season meetings between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Contests fraught with playoff implications like the Blues against the Red Wings or Rangers vs. Islanders. Real life and death stuff.
Sure, Caps and Pens has turned into hockey's answer to the Red Sox and Yankees and, as a regular season event, the perceived importance of these games supersedes whatever real meaning they might have. And maybe the points up for grabs tonight won't affect the grand scheme. With 48 wins and 106 points already in the bank, the Capitals could blow two tires and still limp their way to the Presidents' Trophy. The Penguins have all but locked up home ice for the first round.
But in terms of sheer entertainment, it doesn't get any better than a showdown between the league's white and black hats -- Sunshine
The Caps won both prior meetings this year, 6-3 at the Igloo on Jan. 21 and 5-4 in an OT thriller on Feb. 7 in Washington. But the Pens still hold high ground by virtue of their Game 7 playoff win last spring. And it's that stunning finish, not the friction between the two superstars, that makes this budding rivalry so compelling.
Last year's champs and this season's favorites, both itching to measure themselves against the other with the postseason mere weeks away. Even if you're tired of being force-fed this matchup, you gotta watch.
Here are four elements I'll be keeping an eye on tonight.
Pens vs. Caps tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern on The NHL Network.
And if you feel guilty, stick around after it's over and catch the highlights from the more important games that you missed.