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Flames vs. Capitals Game Thread

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Opposition: Japers' Rink
TV: Sportsnet West

The Flames travel to the District this afternoon secure in the knowledge that they will be finished with this lamentable season in two weeks after a wasted afternoon in Massachusetts. An outing where the PK wasn't quite there and the rest of their game was ineffective leaves them marking time until the 10th of April, with the off-season holding more interest for fans than the final seven games. Given that the Flames have exactly one young player in the line-up at the moment, there isn't even the prospect of evaluating the future for next year and beyond, so these last two weeks will likely feel interminable.

If the Flames are slightly inept and a tad dull, their opposition are at the other end of matters, with the conference title in hand and a genuine superstar in the ranks. The Capitals are an interesting team to watch, with air of recklessness about them that make their games a highlight reel maker's wet dream.

Calgary is simply making up the numbers at this juncture of the season, despite the brave words emanating from the captain yesterday afternoon. His own day was punctuated by an indifferent effort on the final Bruins' tally, unable to clear the puck from the side of the net on the Recchi goal. That noted, effective today, I'm officially at the point where Jarome Iginla's play for the remainder of the year no longer matters in an analytical sense. I don't care who he plays with or what he does, because his season is finished in practical terms.

The one player I would be interested in watching is Mikael Backlund. If Brent Sutter bows to the inevitable this week, he should continue offering the young man a regular turn with top-six line mates, and run him out there against top-six comp. I have no illusions that he can handle that sort of workload yet, but these games are consequence free, so seeing exactly what he's capable of, and more importantly, what he has to work on, is more valuable than playing Craig Conroy in that spot. After the regular season, the Swede can head back to Abbotsford for a playoff run in the AHL. He needs the work at this stage of his career, and a season where he plays 90 games or thereabouts should help down the line.

The Capitals are the President's Trophy winners in waiting after a season where they've scored their opponents into the ground. They're on pace for the most goals since the lockout, and given that the league has tightened up considerably since Ottawa tallied 312 times in 05/06, it's a considerable achievement. They'll end the year averaging about half a goal more than any other team in the game, and caveats for the conference they ply their trade in noted, they're full value.

Their bell cow is number 8, of course, and although his occasional penchant for the stupid is lamentable, he's a player that gets your attention for the right reasons more often than not. "Dynamic" hardly seems to cover Alex Ovechkin on many nights, and since the ascension of Nicklas Backstrom occurred two years ago, the Capitals have had a terrifying attack. They don't just assemble those gaudy numbers on their lethal PP, either. They have the best 5 v 5 for/against ratio in the league by a considerable margin. If Mike Green can manage 3 more goals, they'll finish the year with eight 20 goal scorers. The Flames might end the year with four, and most of the goals by Stajan and Hagman were accrued elsewhere, as we all know, unfortunately.

Game wise, I just hope that the Flames can avoid resembling the Washington Generals against the Globetrotters when down a man. The Capitals' PP is the best in the league, and after yesterday's fiasco, I'm not exactly filled with confidence that a redux isn't in order. If it actually mattered, I'd likely be worried.

Game time is 1 MT on Sportsnet West.