Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Corey Masisak of NHL.com,
When the Chicago Blackhawks were ascending to the top of the NHL, they had a franchise to measure themselves against, to model their progress after.
That franchise was the Detroit Red Wings, which was the elite organization in the League for a long time. Whether it was on-ice success or a wealth of intangible measures, the Blackhawks wanted what the Red Wings had.
It wasn't really until Chicago beat Detroit in the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs and won a second title that the little brother-big brother dynamic disappeared from that rivalry.
After two championships and four trips to the Western Conference Final in six seasons, the Blackhawks, along with the Los Angeles Kings, have become a franchise others measure themselves against. The Blackhawks will meet one of those teams Thursday in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park.
"I think the Blackhawks are probably the gold standard right now in the National Hockey League with success on the ice and success off the ice, having a strong following," Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
Hushed voices. Tear-filled eyes. Hoarse throats.
The Chicago Blackhawks are still struggling to put words to the enormous amount of grief they’ve experienced in the wake of Clint Reif’s death, but there’s an undeniable feeling of loss around the team right now.
A walk inside the visiting locker room at Nationals Park takes you past a stall carrying the name of the equipment manager who was found dead on Dec. 21 at age 34. The makeshift memorial was completely game-ready on Wednesday afternoon with one of the team’s white Winter Classic sweaters hanging in it and a pair of socks neatly folded below.
There will also be “CR” stickers on the back of the helmets worn by both the Blackhawks and Washington Capitals during Thursday’s game — reminders of a man whose presence will be greatly missed at the NHL’s signature event.
“He passed away, but it’s not like we’re going to forget about him,” said Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.
from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo,
This is not just another outdoor hockey game. Not to Washington. Not to the Capitals. Not to Brooks Laich.
Not long ago, the Capitals ranked near the bottom of the NHL in record and attendance. The players would joke they had an “S.O.S.” – a “sold-out section.”
“I remember my first couple years,” said Laich, whose first full seasons were 2005-06 and ’06-07. “You almost couldn’t give your tickets away. People were like, ‘Oh, hockey? No, it’s OK. I’m not interested.’ ”
Thanks to superstar Alex Ovechkin and a high-flying offense, the Capitals changed that. By 2009-10, they won the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top regular-season team, and they had a new kind of “S.O.S.” – a “sold-out season.” They had 100-percent capacity.
from Brendan Prunty of Rolling Stone,
"There are so many things that divide us, but nothing unites like a winning sports team," Leonsis says. "Those are magical moments. And that's what I envision winning a championship here will be like. This über-magical moment for the city. All of that is summed up by that sign: 'Now I Can Die In Peace.'"
So why do the dreams of another super-rich sports owner matter? Who cares that a man worth over a billion dollars wants to win a title (or ten)? Why should what Leonsis wants even register at all? It's simple: When Ted Leonsis wants something he usually gets it.
And that's the best place to start, really. Because on New Year's Day, Leonsis' Washington Capitals will host the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL's annual Winter Classic. It is, on the surface, just another game; but to Leonsis, it's also something more – a showcase for the nation's capital, and the first of many big games he envisions the Caps playing in over the next few years.
"I think our fans appreciate that we went for it on the Winter Classic," Leonsis says. "But no one is going to cut us any slack at the end of the day if we don't win a Stanley Cup. They'll say, 'Nice job in doing all that.' But if we don't win a Stanley Cup, they'll consider me a failure."
NEW YORK (December 29, 3014) – NHL Network™, NHL.com and NHL Social’s™ programming plans for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®, the outdoor game between the Chicago Blackhawks® and the Washington Capitals® at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 1 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVA) will be filled with several days of exciting, in-depth coverage and activation across the National Hockey League’s media platforms.
from Stephen Whyno of the CP at the Winnipeg Free Press,
For the first time, the crown jewel of the regular season isn't a matchup of long-time rivals. And it's at seven-year-old Nationals Park, not a historic stadium that attracts extra attention.
"I'm sure if you ask the Washington Capitals, there's probably more of a buzz there because it's in Washington and not in Chicago," Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook told the Chicago Sun-Times. "All the fanfare around it, we don't get to see that here."
This will be the eighth Winter Classic since the tradition began in Buffalo in 2008. According to NBC play-by-play broadcaster Mike Emrick, there have been 110 outdoor games since at various levels and in many countries, from Mexico to Russia.
This one is a chance for the NHL to shine the spotlight on Alex Ovechkin and the city of Washington, which has experienced a rejuvenation as a hockey town with the "Rock the Red" era Capitals, who have made the playoffs in seven of the past eight years.
Follow the Hawks and Caps through the regular season as they get ready to face off in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic outdoor game.
Watch below, scheduled to start at 10:00pm ET.
First the good goal by Alex Ovechkin...
The bad goal goes to the Calgary Flames, watch it below...
from Alex Prewitt of Capitals Insider,
Here was the Mike Green everyone knew, or at least the one everyone remembered, revived and tearing through all three zones, while everyone else tried to catch up. He zipped across the defensive blue line. He caught one opponent flat-footed and blew straight past. He faked a slap shot and raced by another. He bolted through the right faceoff circle, curled parallel to the goal line, angled himself and, with a simple nudge, slipped the winning pass back into the middle as the Blue Jackets stared.
“He looks slow, but he’s buzzing pretty fast,” forward Michael Latta said. “Hell of a player.”
“Ghost-like,” Coach Barry Trotz said later. “You might not notice him, might not notice them, then – bang – he’s there on offense and he creates something.”
Game highlights are below...
from Scott Burnside of ESPN,
Fair or not, the perception around the hockey world is that there is a distinct lack of buzz surrounding the NHL's marquee regular-season game.
On social media, much of the early discussion surrounding the tilt between the host Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks has been around the seemingly slow build of enthusiasm for an event that has been a major draw for NHL sponsors, hundreds of thousands of fans at the event and a huge television audience.
Anecdotal? For sure.
Meaningful? Hard to tell, although, to be fair, the NHL is just now swinging into major event mode.
What are your thoughts on the Winter Classic? Is it still considered must watch for the NHL fan?
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org