Top 10 best games: Capitals vs. Blackhawks

Top 10 best games: Capitals vs. Blackhawks
August 21, 2013, 9:30 am

With single-game tickets now on sale, CSNWashington.com is counting down the top 10 must-see Capitals games in 2013-14 (the countdown includes both home and away games).

As colleague Brian McNally noted earlier this month, the Capitals will host and visit every NHL team at least once  for the first time since 1997-98.

Below is a look at the countdown so far:

GAME #10: MARCH 25, 2014 CAPITALS VS. LOS ANGELES KINGS

GAME #9: FEBRUARY 8, 2014 CAPITALS VS. NEW JERSEY DEVILS                                               

GAME #8: JANUARY 25, 2014 CAPITALS @ MONTREAL CANADIENS

GAME #7: OCTOBER 12, 2013 CAPITALS VS. COLORADO AVALANCHE

GAME #6: FEBRUARY 2, 2014 CAPITALS VS. DETROIT RED WINGS

GAME #5: MARCH 2, 2014 CAPITALS VS. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

GAME #4: MARCH 29, 2014: CAPITALS VS. BOSTON BRUINS

GAME #3: MARCH 10 & 11 2014: CAPITALS VS/@ PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

GAME #2: OCTOBER 1, 2013: CAPITALS @ CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

For the first time in franchise history, the Capitals will open the regular-season against the defending Stanley Cup champions when they visit Chicago on Oct. 1.

The Madhouse on Madison, which provides one of the more raucous pregame atmospheres in the NHL to begin with, will likely be rocking in the hours leading up to Opening Night as the Blackhawks will raise a second Stanley Cup banner in four years.

In 2010, the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks held a 30-minute pregame ceremony during which they raised their championship banner and honored Hall of Fame members Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.

It will be interesting to see how elaborate this year’s pregame ceremony will be and how the Capitals and Blackhawks will each respond. Players often say that they are creatures of habit and sitting through a lengthy pregame ceremony isn’t usually part of the game day routine.

For what it’s worth, the time consuming banner raising ceremonies in recent seasons seem to have had more of a negative effect on the celebrated home teams than on the road teams. If anything, the road teams often come across as better focused on that night’s game as opposed to the pomp and circumstance that usually surrounds it.

Since 2006, defending Stanley Cup champions are 2-4-2 during their banner-raising home openers. Former Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson insisted that his team sit on the bench and watch the Red Wings’ 2008 banner ceremony (as opposed to remaining in the visitor’s dressing room). Toronto went on to beat Detroit 3-2.

The Red Wings played spoiler in 2010 in Chicago, and last year in Los Angeles the Blackhawks set the tone for the 2013 campaign with a season-opening 5-2 win against the Stanley Cup champion Kings.  The win began Chicago’s record setting 21-0-3 start to the abbreviated season.

 BLACKHAWKS RETURN FULLY LOADED:

Unlike the 2010 Blackhawks who were up against the salary cap and forced to unload the likes of Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Antti Niemi and Kris Versteeg, last year’s Cup winners have remained relatively intact.

While this offseason saw Chicago trade David Bolland to Toronto and lose Viktor Stalberg via free agency to Nashville, the core of the team that finished first overall last season is back. The Blackhawks also finished second in scoring last season (3.10 GPG), and first in overall defense (2.02 GAA).

NO STRANGERS:

The Capitals have played just two regular season games against the Blackhawks in the last three seasons combined, but the teams should be plenty familiar by Opening Night.

The Caps and Hawks meet twice in the preseason, Sept. 20 at Verizon Center and Sept. 28 in the Windy City. They also meet in the penultimate game of the regular season, April 11, 2014 in D.C.

Former Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer, who was part of Chicago’s 2010 Stanley Cup championship roster, will likely be amped up himself to return to United Center where he has played just once since being traded in 2011. Then again, sitting through the banner raising ceremony may just be slightly awkward.