words_Nick Engvall

Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals have to prove themselves this season.For some it seems like yesterday that Jeremy Roenick spilled his emotions while watching his former team lift the Stanley Cup, but for others the off-season has seemed like an eternity. Either way, fans of hockey are back in business as today marks the beginning of the 2010-2011 National League Hockey season.

In the Eastern Conference, although the NHL wouldn’t approve the 17-year deal New Jersey made with Ilya Kovalchuk, they did give the approval to a 15-year deal that will have expectations for the Devils. However, many eyes will be on the team that had the best record in the league last year, the Washington Capitals. The Capitals were the favorite by many to take the Stanley Cup last season, and their regular season efforts left them above and beyond all others. But, they did suffer one of the most disappointing losses in all of sports this year, falling in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens.

Antti Niemi will look for another Stanley Cup only this time with San Jose.Look for Alex Ovechkin to lead the Capitals deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, and on his way taking on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in what has become one of the most popular events of the NHL season, the Winter Classic. This year’s Winter Classic will take place at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day of 2011. The Winter Classic brings hockey to a larger audience than normal with its outdoor venue, and it also adds a level of real-life innocence to the game that is often lost amongst professional sports. For 2011, the Winter Classic will be a highlight due to the fact that the first Winter Classic in 2008 also featured the Pittsburgh Penguins, who ultimately won the inaugural event behind Sidney Crosby’s shootout goal.

In the Western Conference, of course, the Chicago Blackhawks will look to repeat last year’s Stanley Cup Title, but they will do so without their highly regarded goaltender, Antti Niemi. Niemi joined the San Jose Sharks in the off-season after the Blackhawks decided to let him become a free agent. Of course for the Sharks, they’ll remain one of the top teams in the Western Conference again this season, but as San Jose fans can attest, being the favorite hasn’t held much weight when it comes to bringing home the Stanley Cup.

Let us know who your team is and check out the NHL Collection available at Eastbay.

images via yahoo