The Chicago Blackhawks‘ title defense will begin against the Washington Capitals tonight in front of a sold out United Center crowd, with the Championship banner being raised and a season of unparalleled expectation forthcoming.
The Capitals, however, are looking to spoil the party. Led by Alex Ovechkin, the pace of the game should be wide open from the get go. Both teams prefer a puck possession style of play, sacrificing physicality and traditional defensive philosophy in order to push the envelope.
“That speed is what we want to have. It’s good to see a team like that that won a Stanley Cup because of it. We can learn a lot from them, and we’ll be ready for them the first game of the year.” Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby understands that if the flow of the game goes as planned, there will be plenty of pucks coming his way.
The NHL did everything it could to improve scoring this season, and on national television, the hype should be fulfilled. Goaltender Corey Crawford has looked like his old self in limited preseason action, but it will be interesting to see how Crawford adjusts to losing over two inches on his leg pads and having the depth of his net decreased.
With regards to Ovechkin, the key for the Blackhawks lies in frustration and containing the player that ended last season on an immaculate statistical tear. But Ovechkin has been known to slack defensively, especially when down.
It will be intriguing to see how aggressive Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are against Ovechkin, and whether coach Joel Quenneville prefers to go with a shadow of Seabrook’s physicality, or Keith’s finesse. Something else to watch will be how aggressive Ovechkin is with the new hybrid icing rule in place against a dangerous team in Chicago.
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