Sep 28, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Capitals center Mikhail Grabovski (84) is defended by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya (27) during the third period at United Center. Chicago won 4-3 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Real hockey is finally here! Chicago Blackhawks fans haven’t been waiting for this as long as most NHL fans have because our summer was a little more satisfying than theirs. We’ll get to enjoy our banner ceremony and then watch our team begin their defense of the Stanley Cup Champions title. So with a full season of 82 games to win the Cup again, it’s time to focus on the competition. Here are a few quick thoughts to reorient ourselves to the first team that can’t wait to take a swing at the Blackhawks title.
1. The Capitals were pushed out of the playoffs two seasons in a row by the New York Rangers. Their untimely postseason exits came a year and a day apart, and both were in Game 7s. They’ve been waiting since May 13th to start the new hockey season, and like all other 29 NHL teams that didn’t win the Cup, they couldn’t be happier to open against the Stanley Cup Champions.
2. Obviously, the Capitals won’t be going up against the Blackhawks cold. They are one of three teams that played the Blackhawks twice in the preseason. They lost once in a shootout (5-4) and once in overtime (4-3). The first game of the season is the perfect opportunity not only to prove themselves against the current champions, but also for a little retribution for two preseason losses. Before the preseason, the last time the Caps played the Blackhawks was on March 18, 2012, when they lost in Chicago 5-2.
3. With all of that said, there still isn’t a lot of animosity or rivalry between the two teams. The Capitals still have Troy Brouwer playing right wing for them, and that makes them fun to play against for Blackhawks fans. And for every ” we have Alex Ovechkin!” comeback from their fans, we’ll name 4 Blackhawks that we’d rather have instead. Everyone likes it that way.
4. Speaking of Ovechkin, he missed the last preseason game against the Blackhawks because he was busy in Greece starting the Olympic torch on its journey to Russia for the 2014 winter Olympics. That’s a huge honor for any athlete and a reminder that Ovechkin will have the gold medal for his country fresh on his mind when facing the Blackhawks Tuesday night.
5. Finally, with the new NHL realignment, the only original division opponent that remains for the Capitals is the Carolina Hurricanes. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, and Winnipeg Jets have migrated to other another division or conference. Instead, the Capitals will be playing new division rivals – the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, and Columbus Blue Jackets. It sounds like the division title will be a little more difficult to win this season.
How do you think the Capitals will play against the Blackhawks this season?