The 2015 Winter Classic
The Capitals-Blackhawks Winter Classic was played on Jan. 1, 2015 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. The packed house of 42,832 fans was treated to an exceptionally tense game. It was the second Winter Classic appearance for both teams: The Blackhawks came up losers against the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, and the Capitals topped the Pittsburgh Penguins two years later.
The Blackhawks-Capitals Winter Classic: Two Classy Teams
While the rivalry between these two teams may not have been as intense as that of, say, the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers (who met in the 2012 Winter Classic), the Washington Capitals-Chicago Blackhawks Winter Classic matchup pitted two skilled and very strong teams.
The Capitals were a team on the rise. In 2013-14, they narrowly missed the Stanley Cup playoffs, but in 2014-15, they would make the playoffs with a 101-point regular season. After topping the New York Islanders 4 games to 3 in the first round, the Caps lost 4 games to 3 to the Rangers in the second round. The 2014-15 Caps had a solid lineup led by Alexander Ovechkin, with a terrific supporting cast that included Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik.
The 2013-14 Blackhawks made it all the way to the Stanley Cup conference finals before being edged out by the Los Angeles Kings 4 games to 3. The Kings would go on to win the Cup over the Rangers, 4 games to 1. In 2014-15, the Blackhawks would go all the way, winning the Stanley Cup with a 4 games to 2 victory over Tampa Bay in the Final — the third Cup for the Hawks since 2010. Their lineup was obviously solid from top to bottom for the 2015 Capitals-Blackhawks Winter Classic, including Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
No question about it: The 2015 Winter Classic would feature some top-notch NHL hockey, weather permitting. And the weather did permit!
Connecting with Tradition: Throwback Jerseys
A big part of the NHL Winter Classic is connecting with tradition. The visiting Blackhawks and the home team Capitals were outfitted in throwback uniforms that did that to a “T.” The Hawks jersey design was based on their 1957 uniforms, with heavy red-and-white striping and lace-up collars. The Caps’ jerseys were kind of a historical mashup, with a dark red color, white striping, blue and white stars, and a big blue “W” designed to look like the Washington Monument.
The Capitals gave their home fans something to cheer about early, jumping out to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Eric Fehr and Ovechkin. Would the Blackhawks fold? No: Less than two minutes after Ovechkin’s score, Sharp scored on a power play to cut the Washington lead to 2-1.
In the second period, the Blackhawks kept the momentum going with a goal from Brandon Saad at the 3:15 mark. The score was now tied 2-2, and that’s the way it stayed for nearly the rest of the game. And when we say “nearly,” it’s no exaggeration.
With 1:13 left in the third period and the score still tied at 2-2, Toews was called for hooking. Toews and others (especially Blackhawks fans) felt the call was unnecessary, possibly made, as Toews suggested in a postgame interview, to even out the penalty calls. To that point, the Capitals had been whistled for seven penalties, the Blackhawks just three.
At any rate, with Toews in the penalty box, Caps right winger Troy Brouwer picked up a loose puck and shot it past Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford with 13 seconds left in the game. Final score: 3-2, making it the second Washington Capitals Winter Classic win in two appearances.
It was a well-deserved victory for the Caps, who had the better of the play throughout most of the game. And it was a particularly tough loss for the Blackhawks, not only because they lost on a late score, but also because the goal was scored by Brouwer, an ex-Blackhawk who was part of their 2010 championship team.