NHL Winter Classic Preview – Chicago Blackhawks at Washington Capitals

The 2015 edition of the NHL Winter Classic will have the Chicago Blackhawks clashing against the Washington Capitals at Nationals Park in Washington on New Year’s Day (1:00 p.m. Eastern).

Chicago leads the Western Conference’s Central Division with 52 points, and they have won five of their last seven games, including two in a row (against Colorado and Nashville).  The Hawks boast the best defense in the NHL, allowing just 2.1 goals per game.

Chicago’s defense was shoddy in the team’s only other Winter Classic appearance, though, when the team lost 6-4 to Detroit back in 2009. While games from five years ago don’t tend to have too much significance, the core of the Chicago defense is still intact (specifically, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook).

Nonetheless, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has liked the camaraderie his team has showed heading into the annual outdoor game.

“It’s healthy,” said Quenneville said about the nature and identity of his team. “There are always some guys who get picked on, and there are always some guys who won’t shut up and there are always some guys who are kind of quiet. It’s the makeup of teams, and that chemistry can go a long way to helping your team have success. That camaraderie of being a teammate and being one of the guys is what it’s all about, making life in the NHL so much fun.”

The Washington Capitals, meanwhile, are third in the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division with 43 points, and they have lost two of their last three (to the Islanders and Rangers). They won their only other Winter Classic, though, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins (3-1) in 2011.

Like the Blackhawks, the Capitals roster also features a lot of holdovers from the squad that played in the Winter Classic previously. Among them is all-star defenseman Mike Green, who is looking forward to suiting up outside one more time.

“You’ve got to sort of find a way quickly to adapt,” Green said about the Winter Classic experience. “Once you’re in the game, everything’s instinct and whatnot. There’s definitely adjustments you have to make as players and as a team, but that’s the fun of it.”

If you’re looking for a trend between the Capitals and Blackhawks, Washington has won the last two in the series, and both games stayed under.

(Photo credit: Me (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Frank Lorenzo

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