We can argue over whether having teams jousting for the final one or two playoff spots really generates late season NHL drama, with most post-season berths sewn up by clubs left to simply jockey for seeding.
But there's no doubt tonight's tilt in D.C. between the Capitals and Hurricanes is, essentially, a playoff-like game.
Nothing will be decided tonight, mind you, although a Caps loss would all but end their season and keep one of the NHL's marquee attractions, scoring star Alex Ovechkin, out of the playoffs again.
You can feel sorry for Ovechkin and the Caps, but understand they've had the luxury of knowing there were two ways to qualify for the playoffs, either by catching Boston or Philly for the eighth spot, or by catching the Hurricanes for the Southeast Division lead and vaulting all the way up to the third seed.
Even if the Hurricanes lose tonight, they could simply beat Tampa and Florida in their final two games and, because of one extra victory, would finish ahead of the Caps no matter what Washington does in its final two games.
From a Washington point-of-view, this is Ovechkin's chance to lay an undeniable claim to the Hart Trophy. While some, like me, have said giving the Hart to a player from a non-playoff team would make no sense, if the Russian whiz can lift the Caps into the post-season now, his claim on the Hart would be nearly impossible to refute.
That, to my mind, is what an MVP has to be; the difference. My top three choices - Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur and Pittsburgh centre Evgeny Malkin - have made the difference for their playoff-bound teams this season. While some suggest Ovechkin's claim to the Hart is undeniable, imagining where the Caps would be without him, I would suggest the Wings, Devils and Penguins would also be in very different situations without Lidstrom, Brodeur and Malkin.
It's too bad Ovechkin hasn't yet had a chance to play a playoff game, but tonight's game is essentially a playoff game.
So let's see the young man shine.