<
>

What to watch as the Winter Classic unfolds, and which team will win

Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

Hot or not

OvechkinAlex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Ovechkin fueled the Capitals' late rally Wednesday, scoring twice in a four-goal third period on the way to a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.


BogosianZach Bogosian, Buffalo Sabres
Bogosian had a tough night in that loss to the Capitals, finishing minus-4 and taking a penalty along the way.


Which is the biggest Winter Classic subplot, and who will win?

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: As we prepare to bid adieu to 2015, there's lots of news for our team at the Winter Classic in Boston to digest. First and foremost, the Boston Bruins will be without super-pest (opponents might call him something we couldn't print on a family website) Brad Marchand, who was suspended three games for his low-bridge clip of Mark Borowiecki of the Ottawa Senators in the Bruins' most recent game. It was a careless, selfish play and it could cost the Bruins not just in Friday's game at Gillette Stadium but also moving forward. It could cost Marchand, too, because it's hard to imagine Team Canada GM Doug Armstrong bringing into his dressing room a player teammates would loathe given his dangerous play. But that's a discussion for another day. Today, I want predictions, and lots of them. Who does Michel Therrien go with in goal on Friday for the banged-up Habs? And who wins this game, the importance of which cannot be understated, especially after Atlantic Division foes Ottawa and the Tampa Bay Lightning lost ugly on Wednesday night? Me? I'd start newly acquired Ben Scrivens in net (sorry, Mike Condon), and I'll give the nod to the Canadiens, 4-3 in a shootout.


Craig Custance@CraigCustance: Scrivens over the local kid Condon? Have you no heart, Scotty? I can't say I blame you, though, considering Condon has an .888 save percentage in December. Before the season, a goalie coach I spoke with identified Scrivens as a potential Devan Dubnyk-like rebound candidate if he ever got out of Edmonton. He's still a guy who had a .910 save percentage with the Maple Leafs and a .931 with the Kings, so I like the idea of giving him a shot in Montreal. Just not in this game. Condon's storybook ascension to the NHL is a great tale already, and it would be even better with an outdoor win in front of friends and family in Foxborough. So I'll go with Condon getting the start and leading the Canadiens to a 2-1 win in overtime.


Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: Losing Marchand is a huge blow to the Bruins. Not only against the hated Canadiens but also during what is a crucial point in the schedule. Boston sits in third place in the Atlantic with 44 points, only one ahead of the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils. GM Don Sweeney and coach Claude Julien can't be pleased with Marchand's actions on Tuesday that resulted in his suspension, especially given that the team stitched an 'A' on his sweater in that game for the first time. As far as the Winter Classic, I hope it's your typical rivalry game between the Bruins and Canadiens, even with star power missing from both teams. I hope local boy Condon gets the nod for Montreal. I remember how disappointed fellow local netminder Brian Boucher was when he didn't play for the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2010 Winter Classic at Fenway Park (sorry to bring that up, Bouch). Anyway, I just want to see a high-energy game, and it doesn't matter to me which team wins. If I have to pick, I'll go with the Bruins in a 3-2 regulation victory.


Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: I don't think it matters who starts in goal for the Habs, what matters is that they start scoring goals! The offense has disappeared over the past month during an extended slump. Perhaps injured forward Brendan Gallagher will come to the rescue? He'll practice with his teammates on the outdoor ice on Thursday, and you know he's going to try to do everything he can to convince Michel Therrien he's ready to return from his injury. Man, that would be a huge boost to that Habs dressing room if they could get Gallagher back.


Around the league