The Vancouver Canucks are playing one of those so-called "meaningless" games on Saturday, wrapping up the NHL regular season with a home contest against the Calgary Flames.
The Canucks can neither drop, nor rise, from third place in the Western Conference, and the Flames are out of the playoffs. But consider what former NFL coach Bill Parcells used to say "they're only meaningless for the people not playing in them." Also consider this: for a meaningless game, there sure is a lot at stake. Such as:
-- Henrik Sedin's Art Ross Trophy. Sedin, who leads Alexander Ovechkin by two points in the scoring race, will look to wrap up the Art Ross (awarded to the scoring champion). The Canucks have never had a major individual award winner (defined as Hart, Ross, Norris or Vezina), and their fan base has closely followed Hank's head-to-head battle with hockey's most colourful player. Ovechkin plays Sunday, so he'll know the number to catch. For Sedin's sake, he better hope he has a comfortable lead, because the Capitals are playing a "meaningless" game as well, and are sure to give Ovie every opportunity to win the hardware
-- Goaltender Roberto Luongo has been inconsistent since returning from the Olympic break, and he has one last chance to find his game and head into the Stanley Cup playoffs with some good tidings. It should also be noted that Luongo was chased from a "meaningless" season finale against Calgary two years ago, after allowing three goals in an eventual 7-1 rout. This is a goaltender who doesn't forget slights.
-- The defence could use some warm fuzzies, too. Christian Ehrhoff (knee injury) is expected to play, and Shane O'Brien and Kevin Bieksa could also use strong performances, lest their confidence be shaken come the postseason. If the Canucks could win a 2-1 game with stellar performances from Luongo and the blue line, that would be manna from heaven right now. Because the recent evidence suggests this is a team that cannot win tight-checking, low-scoring games.