Saturday, March 1, 2014
Stadium Series, Chicago Style
The Penguins continue their march to the playoffs tonight in Chicago against the Blackhawks. This game is different though. It's part of the NHL Stadium Series and will be held in Soldier Field. But don't mistake this for the pomp and circumstance of some ceremonial type game. This is a regular season battle that has little potential playoff implication at this point but is important for both teams nonetheless.
These two are probably the best two teams to date in the 2013-14 season to face-off on the outdoor ice. The Penguins lead the Metro division by a mile and a half and lead the East by 5 points. The Hawks sit tied with St. Louis for the lead in the Central and are tied for 3rd in the West. Both teams also have 84 total points. Both teams lead their conferences in goals-for. But the biggest nod to this being a huge game, both teams have won 3 of the last 5 Stanley Cups and both teams are top considerations for winning it this year.
The Hawks need a win. Over the last 10, they are 3-4-3. This game could give them the momentum to push them toward a strong finish. The Pens, on the other hand, have gone 6-2-2 in their last 10, losing the other night in a SO to Montreal. This is a Nationally televised game on NBC, which have traditionally not boded well for the Pens. In addition, they are dealing with injuries to Letang and Martin and there is a mystery looming as to what Shero is going to do before the trade deadline.
Regardless, this is a big game. The media has been hyping it up in Chicago for months. It was front page news in most area papers. Ticket sales have slowed but secondary market prices have launched into the stratosphere. There will be fireworks, explosions, rock music, a fly-over, NHL legends looking on, and with any luck there will some inclement weather to make it an interesting event inside a giant snow globe (there's snow in the forecast...).