Report: Penguins to host Capitals for 2011 Winter Classic

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Dave Molinari
of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
is reporting today that the NHL is
leaning towards the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins
facing off in the 2011 Winter Classic, to be played at Heinz Field.
There has been no confirmation on this news from the Penguins or
Capitals, and I’ve been told by NHL sources that no announcement is
expected anytime soon. So right now this is just pure speculation, based
solely on Molinari’s report.

There was always a good possibility that Alex Ovechkin and the
Capitals would be involved in the Classic next season — presumably at
home — but another nationally televised matchup between the Penguins
and Capitals in the biggest regular season game for the NHL makes sense,
as far as marketing the NHL’s two biggest teams go. But what about the
rest of the NHL?

Nate Ewell, director of media relations for the
Capitals, had this to say on Twitter
about the report when asked about the Caps playing the Penguins:

Was sad when reports weren’t true about Caps in
2010 Winter Classic. Can’t say the same personally if these 2011 reports
prove false.

I can’t justify them
playing in another one when
24 teams haven’t had the chance

The
issue is over the Penguins hosting the Winter Classic, when they’ve
already appeared in one. The goal by the NHL was to spread the Classic
around the league– supposedly– so it’s understandable when there is some resistance
to the Penguins getting another one so soon.

There are some logistical problems that would need to be addressed, however, before an official
announcement is even made. For one, the Penguins are opening a new arena
this season; hosting the Winter Classic would take away a valuable home
game at the new venue. There’s also the small issue of playing the game
at the home field of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Says
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio:

Though Molinari
says that “approximately two weeks” will be needed to
build and prep an outdoor rink, Molinari also says that the Steelers are
expected to host their home finale on Thursday, December 23, which
would give the crew less than nine days to cover the turf with a
platform coated in ice.  The possibility that the Steelers will host a
playoff game in the wild-card round would give the powers-that-be at
least a week to restore the venue to its football configuration.

The
issue of playing at Heinz Field is most likely the biggest stumbling
block, not the whole “but the Pens already played in a Winter Classic”
argument.

As of now, this is just a report that has sparked debate
across the hockey-verse on a quiet Sunday. But still, one more piece to
the intense rivalry built between the Capitals and Penguins franchises.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal