Winter Classic 2011: Did 24/7 Penguins/Capitals Overhype The Game?

Chris Eggemeyer@@chriseggemeyerCorrespondent IDecember 31, 2010

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 21:  Forward Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals skates as forward Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins defends on January 21, 2010 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The HBO series, 24/7 Penguins Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic, has been building up a lot of hype for the big showdown in Pittsburgh on New Year's Day.

The rivalry between Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby may be the biggest player rivalry in the NHL right now and the battle between the Caps and Penguins may be just as big, but the two teams have been having their ups and downs, and it should make everyone wonder:

Has the biggest NHL match up of the year been overhyped?

The Capitals have been having a good season, especially in their last five games, where they have gone 4-1.

With the return of Mike Green, the team has found life, but they are now dealing with a new set of injuries for the game, as the Caps will miss right wing Matt Bradley and defenseman Jeff Schultz for the Winter Classic.

There is a big concern, though, that the Capitals can't get it going against big opponents.

In the past few weeks, the Caps have lost 3-2 to the Penguins (OT), 3-2 to Boston and 7-0 to the New York Rangers, plus close losses to other, "lesser" opponents.

The Caps are starting to roll, but with recent history like that, shadows of doubt have been cast over their ability to put up a big fight against their heated rivals.

On the other side of the puck, you have the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have also had a rough going against top opponents. They've lost games against the Islanders, Senators, Rangers and Flyers recently, three of which have been having underwhelming seasons.

But hey, this is hockey—teams lose games every now and then.

The bigger thing is Sidney Crosby, who saw his point streak snapped against the New York Islanders. While having that kind of streak snapped isn't usually a huge alarm, it may have provided the Caps with a formula for taking out Pittsburgh's biggest weapon.

In the end, the Winter Classic should still be a good game. It features two of the NHL's best teams, two of their best players and a venue that only comes around once a year, so it's still an experience worth sharing in.

That doesn't mean it can't be overhyped, though.

This game won't come down to overtime and it may not even be determined by one goal, that much I can promise. Which team will come out on top is still up in the air, but both teams are more vulnerable than 24/7 Penguins/Capitals makes them out to be.