The 2011 NHL Winter Classic game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins (host) is set for Saturday January 1st (8 PM EST) at Heinz Field. NBC Sports will provide TV coverage for this game. Washington is currently first in the Southeast Division, with a 22-12-5 record; Pittsburgh tops the Atlantic Division, with a record of 25-11-2. This article offers TV time and predictions for the 2011 Capitals-Penguins game.
1) Capitals-Penguins Matchup
The only outdoor game of the NHL season features what is perhaps hockey’s biggest rivalry in the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. The two teams met 5 times in 2010, with the Capitals enjoying a 4-1 advantage. While Washington has dominated their regular season meetings, Pittsburgh has been the better team in the postseason. Their last encounter was a week ago; the Penguins won that game 3-2.
2) Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby
The highly anticipated game features two of the NHL’s brightest stars in Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. Both players have enjoyed a fine season, each ranking in the top six in total points. For the season, Washington’s Ovechkin has accumulated 13 goals and 28 assists. Pittsburgh’s Crosby has been even more impressive, raking up league-leading 30 goals in addition to 31 assists. The Penguins’ center is currently enjoying a 25-game scoring streak. Statistically speaking, Sid the Kid is clearly the better player at the moment.
3) Bruce Boudreau vs. Dan Bylsma
Since its inception in 2008, the Winter Classic has been a ratings bonanza for the NHL. With superstars Ovechkin and Crosby headlining the event’s latest edition, this could be the catalyst the NHL needs to reassert itself as one of America’s major professional sports leagues. In addition to their star power, the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins are also two of the league’s top teams this season with each leading its respective division. The 2011 Winter Classic is shaping up to be the best one yet.
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The Washington Capitals come into this contest in mediocre form. Bruce Boudreau’s team is still reeling from an 8-game losing streak that included 5 straight home losses. Nevertheless, the Capitals have recovered somewhat from the notorious streak winning 4 of their last 5 games. Boudreau’s crew is in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories. Washington is 10th in goals scored and 12th in points allowed. The team has been decent on the power play, placing 11th in power play percentage and 9th in penalty kill.
The Pittsburgh Penguins come into the 2011 Winter Classic as the most rounded team in the NHL. Dan Bylsma’s team is terrific on both offense and defense. Anchored by superstar Sidney Crosby, the Penguins rank 6th in the NHL in points scored. On the defensive front, Pittsburgh is even more impressive. Bylsma’s crew ranks 4th in the NHL in points allowed and first in penalty kill. The team’s only glaring weakness has been its poor power play performance, which ranks 18th in the league.
My prediction for the 2011 Winter Classic game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins: the Pens win 4-3. Game time is 8 PM EST. The game will be played at Heinz Field, and will be broadcast by NBC Sports.