The NHL's annual Winter Classic will take place on New Year's Day at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, with the Pittsburgh Penguins taking on the Washington Capitals. The game is obviously being built around the Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin rivalry. This is really the NHL attempting to put the two on center stage in front of the entire nation.
This will mark the Penguins 2nd appearance in the Winter Classic games. They first appeared against the Buffalo Sabres in 2008, taking the win in the shootout. This will be Washington's first apperance in the annual New Year's Day game.
From a fans perspective, the Winter Classic is really a great idea. It's something different than your average regular season hockey game. It really becomes the spotlight in sports on a day in which not much else is going on besides a few college football bowl games. I've never really had a problem with the teams that were selected in the past games. I am fully aware that the Predators aren't going to be in the Winter Classic game anytime soon.
As for this game, I get what the NHL is trying to do. They're putting their two biggest stars in the spotlight to start off the new year, hoping that it will bring more attention to the league. I personally think the Crosby-Ovechkin rivalry is probably more hyped up by the media than it is between the two players and the two teams. The Capitals have been on a bit of a slide lately going 2-6-2 in their last 10 games, while the Penguins have gone 8-2-0. Sidney Crosby is playing so much better than anybody else in the league right now. It's almost ridiculous, and he's never played better previously in his career.
I know the two teams can be in a completely different situation when the Winter Classic comes, given that the game isn't until January 1st. The Capitals could become hot and the Penguins could kind of simmer down a bit. No matter what happens, I think it's going to be a good game between the two teams. The atmosphere for the game is sure to be unique and electric. Heck, it could be an Eastern Conference Final preview(although Philly is playing extremely well right now). That would be a dream for the NHL.