2011 NHL Winter Classic Practice

Who needs to win the Winter Classic more?

With tonight’s Winter Classic dropping the puck at 8 p.m. we see two teams that are indeed rivals that are sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference. Don’t let their place in the standings fool you though, there are stark differences between the two and how they’re playing leading into tonight’s game.

Washington has put their eight-game losing streak behind them and they’ve won four of their last five games but that one loss in the middle of that is to Pittsburgh. With the teams only meeting four times this season, each game brings a special kind of heat to it and with tonight’s game being the Winter Classic, the pressure is intense to win each game to prove a point.

But who needs to win this game more? For us, the answer is obvious. Washington needs to get a win tonight and if you’ve seen any part of HBO’s 24/7 you know why. The Capitals need a confidence boost.

The Caps’ recent success is good for them because it keeps them from being the quiet and sullen team they appeared to be on 24/7. That said, getting wins over Ottawa, New Jersey, and Carolina aren’t really awe-inspiring. Their 3-0 shutout win over Montreal was a solid psychological boost after their failure against Montreal last year. A win against the Penguins in Pittsburgh today in front of 65,000 fans is the exact kind of win this temperamental Caps team needs to stay focused and to completely put that miserable losing streak in the past for good.

What would be best for Washington would be to beat Pittsburgh and beat them handily with their offensive stars like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom all finding the score sheet. Ovechkin is having a solid season, but his goal numbers are down compared to previous seasons. The lingering feeling that Ovechkin has a goal eruption coming hangs over the team and once it happens (if it happens) the high-scoring Caps we got accustomed to seeing will be back in a big way.

That’s not to say this game isn’t big for the Penguins. The Pens are getting Jordan Staal back in their lineup tonight and that means for the first time this year, the Pens have their full compliment of great players back on the ice. We’ll get a look at how Staal looks with Evgeni Malkin on his wing and if that’s the thing the Penguins needed to take control of the Eastern Conference races.

As it is, the Pens are four points up on both Washington and Tampa Bay for the overall lead in the East. The Pens getting another win, ideally a regulation win with just two points for them and none for the Caps, would work two-fold. The Pens would extend their lead and they’d also deliver a psychological blow to Washington, something that could linger with them all year long.

Overall though, this game is a must-win for Washington. If it turns into another game where they fall behind early and try to gut it out, it creates unnecessary drama for them. After all, moral victories aren’t counted in the standings and when it comes to Pittsburgh, racking up those kinds of wins doesn’t do anything to help them out in the long run and for Washington, that’s what matters the most.

Kane scores OT-winner, caps Islanders’ bumpy start in Brooklyn

Patrick Kane

On paper, it’s the perfect way to kick off meaningful hockey in Brooklyn, as the New York Islanders faced the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.

In reality, there were some highs and lows, culminating with Patrick Kane scoring a power-play overtime-winner to give Chicago a 3-2 (OT) win.

The Barclays Center crowd was going to be a big part of the story one way or another, but even by building-opening standards, the audience made some waves.

Indeed, Kane was greeted with some jeers during his first road appearance of the 2015-16 season, though he didn’t sound surprised.

(There were other controversial chants, apparently.)

Speaking of the crowd, it may not have been the greatest turnout:

ESPN goes way, way in depth on how the change of locale was received, by the way.

It wasn’t a perfect night inside the rink, either, as there weren’t exactly rave reviews about ice quality. New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple compared the ice to a “slushy” and “soup,” with an anonymous Islander (or Islanders) describing the conditions as “awful.”

Kane was pretty diplomatic about it, for what it’s worth.


So, no, it was not a perfect night for the Islanders.

They probably envisioned a teeming, perfectly mannered crowd. Management likely expected Jaroslav Halak to be in net, too.

Sometimes breaking ground is often about overcoming those early stumbles, though, and maybe the best review is to parallel the on-ice results: the Isles at least got a point out of it.

Let’s not forget that there are some cool perks that come with this situation, even if the specifics may vary.

If you want even more information/photos/etc., you’d probably do well to check out #IslesOpeningNight.

Columbus collapse: Rangers spoil Blue Jackets’ opener

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For a little more than a minute, Brandon Saad was going to be the story of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ opener. Instead, his power-play goal merely got the ball rolling on a flabbergasting finish.

The New York Rangers scored three goals in 1:17 of game time to manage a 4-2 win.

They’ve now spoiled home openers for the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets to begin their 2015-16 season.

It might be easiest just to show you when the goals were scored, noting that the third period began with a 1-1 tie.

Brandon Saad power-play goal: 16:10 into third period (2-1 Columbus)
Oscar Lindberg: 17:24 (2-2 tie)
Kevin Hayes: 17:41 (3-2 Rangers)
Mats Zuccarello: 18:41 (4-2 Rangers)

Yikes. Zuccarello scored two of the Rangers’ goals, while a beauty by Cam Atkinson is likely long forgotten.