On March 15, I compiled a list of the six most important games remaining on the Capitals' schedule. The final entry on the list was the April 27 game between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins. This matchup has in now way decreased in significance in the month since then.
First and foremost, this is the final game of the season. The Capitals will need every point they can get, perhaps just to make the Eastern Conference playoffs.
More importantly, the Boston Bruins have all but officially qualified for the playoffs. Competing with a playoff-caliber team like the Bruins will be a good test for the Capitals, and good practice in case they actually make the postseason. Because if they do, they could very well be playing these same Boston Bruins in the first round, for the second year in a row.
Another playoff series would add fuel to the Capitals and Bruins heated rivalry, formed largely by that contentious series last April. So far, the season series has shown the same elements that made the playoff series so compelling.
The game on March 5 at Verizon Center started as a Boston blowout, but the Capitals came from three goals down and won 4-3 early in the overtime period. This was exactly like the playoff series, as four of the seven games went to overtime, and all seven games were decided by only one goal. It is the only seven-game series in NHL history to achieve that feat.
The game on March 16 at TD Garden was not close, however, as the Bruins won 4-1. But it sure was nasty. There were three fights in the game, including two fights only eight seconds apart. The first of those was between Mike Ribeiro and Brad Marchand, two of the biggest brats in the NHL. It was the first fighting major for Ribeiro since he played in the QMJHL, 14 years ago. And to put the game in perspective for the Washington Capitals, the team only has 14 fighting majors for the entire 2013 regular season.
This testiness reminds both Capitals and Bruins fans of incidents from last April's playoff battle, such as Nicklas Backstrom cross checking Rich Peverley in the face and Karl Alzner calling Milan Lucic a crybaby.
There's no telling which of these elements will be present in the Capitals' game against the Bruins on April 27. But the Capitals certainly hope this game continues to remind them of last season's playoff series, specifically Games 2, 4, 5 and 7.