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2015 NHL Winter Classic: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Washington Capitals

by Photo of Andrew Wallach

The Blackhawks and Capitals face-off in the seventh installment of the Winter Classic

2015 NHL Winter Classic: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Washington Capitals

What will you be doing on New Year's day? Some people will have already begun executing their New Year's resolutions. Others will be recovering from the night before. Me? I will be enjoying what has become a New Year's tradition at my house over the past seven years. I'm going to order pizza, make some wings, grab some drinks and watch some hockey! 

That's right, I am going to spend a portion of my New Year's afternoon watching outdoor hockey. Judge me if you want. This year's game is going to be exciting as one of the best teams in the league goes up against one of the most electrifying players we have seen in a long time. I almost would rather sleep through the ball dropping and skip right to this game.

The 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will feature the championship-contending Chicago Blackhawks against star forward Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals from Nationals Park in Washington D.C. No, this year's edition will not be played in front of over 100,000 fans like last year's extravaganza at The Big House in Ann Arbor. Instead, a little over 40,000 fans will pack into Nationals Park and witness what has become the marquee event of the NHL regular season. Kudos to the league, as they have once again selected a great matchup of teams to compete this year.

This will mark the Blackhawks' second appearance in the Winter Classic. The team lost their first appearance to the Red Wings in 2009 at Wrigley Field. They enter the game as the Central Division leaders, two points behind the Anaheim Ducks for best record in the NHL despite having one more win. Chicago has tremendous depth on both ends of the ice. Offensively, they are led by star forward Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews, both in the top 25 in the league in scoring. They are aided on the offensive end by veteran players like Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards, and youngster Brandon Saad. 

Defensively, reigning Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith continues to play at a high level alongside the always dependable Brent Seabrook. In net, Corey Crawford has played at an all-star level while healthy. Even when he's missed time due to injury, Antti Raanta has held down the fort. For my money, Chicago is the best, most complete team in the entire league. Just one easy stat to back that opinion up: Chicago ranks third in the league in goals for and first in goals allowed per game. Those numbers concisely display why Chicago is such a balanced team and a favorite to raise the Cup this June. 

Like Chicago, this year will be the Capitals' second appearance in the Winter Classic. They defeated the Penguins in the 2011 Classic at Heinz Field. The Caps will enter this year's game with 43 points and in good position to contend for a playoff spot. Top center Nicklas Backstrom leads the team in points, but it will be Ovechkin that most people want to see. Despite only posting 30 points so far this season, he remains one of the most fun players to watch in the game. His ability to do anything with the puck on his stick and score from just about anywhere will keep the fans on the edge of their seats when he is on the ice. 

Their defense has been middle-of-the road thus far. But high-priced free agents Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, along with the established John Carlson and Mike Green, will look to improve in new coach Barry Trotz's system. Goalie Braden Holtby has had a pretty decent year and will look to build some momentum going forward. 

This year's Winter Classic should be a terrific matchup. One of the league's best teams against one of its best players. Both teams have had an experience in this environment before, so nerves should not play a huge factor. The Blackhawks are the better team, and my pick to win. My prediction: Chicago wins 4-2.

What will you be doing on New Year's Day? I'll be watching hockey. The lucky ones will actually be there at Nationals Park taking it in live.

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