Today on NBC, it’s the Washington Capitals hosting the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic at Nationals Park. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:
• Through 21 games, Chicago was 7th in the West (3rd in Central). Entering the Winter Classic, the Hawks are leading the Central Division, and with 52 points, trail NHL-leading Anaheim (54 points) by just two points with two games in hand.
• After their Dec. 2 loss to Vancouver, the Caps were 11th in the East. Now, they are 8th in the conference, and with 43 points, occupy the 2nd wild card spot in the conference.
• Chicago has made the playoffs 6 years in a row, winning 2 Stanley Cups in that stretch (2012-13, 2009-10).
• Washington missed the playoffs last season (by 3 pts) after making the postseason the previous 6 seasons.
• Star Power: Since 2007-08 (Backstrom, Kane, and Toews‟ rookie seasons), the Kane/Toews and Ovechkin/Backstrom tandems are two of the highest scoring teammate combos in the NHL:
**Here’s how these 4 stars have fared head-to-head against each other, and in outdoor games**
PATRICK KANE vs. WSH: 2G-3A in 7 GP
• 1A in 2 career outdoor games
JONATHAN TOEWS vs. WSH: 4G-3A in 6 GP
• 2G-2A in 2 career outdoor games
ALEX OVECHKIN vs. CHI: 6G-3A in 9 GP
• 0 points in 1 career outdoor game
NICKLAS BACKSTROM vs. CHI: 3G-4A in 6GP
• 1A in 1 career outdoor game
• While Ovechkin and Backstrom have been more productive scoring-wise, Kane and Toews have found more playoff success with 2 Stanley Cups (2010 & 2013), as opposed to 0 for the Caps stars.
• CHI coach Joel Quenneville (1,330 games coached, 731 wins) & WSH coach Barry Trotz (1232 games coached, 575 wins) rank 1st and 4th, respectively, among active coaches in games coached and wins.
• Quenneville will coach his 3rd outdoor game – most among coaches – while Trotz will make his debut behind the bench in an outdoor game.
CHICAGO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES
• Patrick Kane leads the Hawks in goals (18) and points (40). He had an assist against Nashville, and has been hot lately with 14 points (6G-8A) in his last 9 games.
• Jonathan Toews is right behind Kane – 2nd on the team in goals (13) and points (31). “Captain Serious” did not record a point against Nashville, but he has 8 points (2G-6A) in his last 7 games.
• Marian Hossa has just 4 points (3G-1A) in his last 9 games, but he has great numbers vs. the Capitals in his career. In 50 career games, Hossa has 55 points (24G-31A).
• Patrick Sharp turned 33 on Saturday. That night against Colorado, Sharp scored a goal. He now has 17 points (6G-11A) in 23 games this season.
• With an assist Monday against NSH, Sharp recorded his 500th NHL point in his 700th NHL game.
• Sharp missed over a month (14 games) after injuring his knee in a game against Montreal on Nov. 4. Since his return, Sharp has 8 points (3G-5A) in 10 games.
• Sharp led the Hawks in goals (34) and points (78) last season.
• Duncan Keith had 3 assists against Nashville. He leads Hawks d-men in points (23). With 6 goals through 36 games, Keith has already matched his goal output from a season ago.
• Corey Crawford has made 4 starts since missing nearly a month after he injured his foot leaving a concert. He is 2-1-1 in those games, including the win against Nashville in which he made 36 stops on 40 shots.
• Overall this season, Crawford is 14-6-2 with a 2.08 GAA and .921 SV%
• Career vs. WSH: Crawford is 2-2-1 in 5 career games vs. the Caps, with a 3.62 GAA (17 goals against).
• Career in outdoor games: Crawford won in his only outdoor game, the 2014 Stadium Series game at Soldier Field. CHI defeated PIT 5-1, and Crawford made 31 saves on 32 shots.
WASHINGTON TEAM/PLAYER NOTES
• Nicklas Backstrom has more goals (7) in 13 December games than he did in his previous 23 games of the season (5).
• Backstrom leads the Caps in points (38) and assists (26) and is 2nd on the team in goals (12).
• Backstrom has scored 7 goals in his last 8 games.
• Alex Ovechkin leads the NHL in shots (179) and is 5th in hits (131) – teammate Brooks Orpik is 4th w/ 138.
• Ovi leads the team in goals (17) and is 2nd in points (30).
• He scored the game-tying goal against the Islanders on Mon. and has 3 points (2G-1A) in his last 3 games.
• Troy Brouwer was a 7th round pick (214th overall) in 2004 by Chicago and won a Cup with the Hawks in 2010, but he was traded in the summer of 2011 to Washington for a 1st round draft choice.
• Brouwer is one of 38 – and the only active – players to have competed for both the Caps and „Hawks. He is the only player to have skated in at least 200 games for both clubs (246 – WSH, 238 – CHI).
• The 29-year-old had a career year last season, posting highs in goals (25) and points (43).
• This season, Brouwer is t-3rd on the team in goals (10), but he has just one point in his last 5 games.
• Career vs. CHI: Brouwer has 0 points against his former team in 4 career games.
• John Carlson is emerging as an elite defenseman for the Capitals. The 24-year-old is 2nd on the Caps in assists (23), and his 27 points are fourth amongst NHL d-men.
• Through 36 games, Carlson is already approaching his career high for assists (30) and points (37) in a season.
• Carlson also leads WSH in TOI/G at 23:17.
• Braden Holtby started all 13 games for the Caps in December (a career-high for consecutive starts), going 8-2-3 with 2 shutouts, a 2.13 GAA and a .929 SV%.
• Overall this season, Holtby is 16-8-6 with a 2.28 GAA and .920 SV%.
• Career vs. CHI: Holtby is 2-1-0 in his 3 starts vs. the Hawks, with a 3.28 GAA and .904 SV%.
• This will be Holtby’s first appearance in an outdoor game.