Five Thoughts From The 2016 Winter Classic
The NHL’s eighth annual Winter Classic will undoubtedly be hailed as a success, with a capacity 67,246 crowd watching Montreal top Boston 5-1 in Foxboro.
The victory moved the Canadiens ahead of Florida, allowing Michel Therrien’s side to re-claim 1st place in the Atlantic Division, and set cogs turning in this writers mind as One Puck Short begins 2016 with some post-Winter Classic musings.
These Games Only Work If Both Teams Turn Up
Boston may have gotten on the board and attempted to engage in some (pointless) fisticuffs during the third period, but the game already felt over after 40 minutes.
Montreal were impressive, Mike Condon’s sensational save on Ryan Spooner in the dying seconds of the middle frame left some dreaming of a first Winter Classic shut out; but by the final buzzer many had tuned out.
The Bruins inability to create anything offensively, particularly at 5-on-5, made this perhaps the most lop sided Winter Classic we’ve seen – which might have been ok if it was being held in Quebec, where the home fans would undoubtedly have been raucous after such a win, but as it was it kind of killed things within the Gillette Stadium and without.
Canadiens for the Cup?
The Bruins offensive impotence aside (perhaps partially owing to being without David Krejci and Brad Marchand), again it has to be said Montreal were impressive.
Brendan Gallagher’s return seems to have been labelled as the catalyst for the Habs upturn in fortune, after a wretched run through December, but in returning to the top of the Atlantic Division Montreal showed speed, skill and tenacity.
With Carey Price still to return, it’s hard not to wonder how far this Canadiens team might be able to go – assuming they’ve put the worst of it behind them by surviving the past month.
An Outdoor Game In/Involving Winnipeg
Yes, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, a man who never says publicly anything without it actually meaning something, provided what looked to be a significant hint at where a future outdoor game might be held – or at least who it might involve.
Immediately suggestions of a Jets vs Coyotes troll off, sorry, game sprung to mind, while those who have suggested Winnipeg and Minnesota might be one of the NHL’s next great rivalries also had a little extra fuel to pour on their fire.
Whether the Jets are a candidate for a fully fledged Winter Classic, or simply the latest in an ever increasing line of teams handed a token Stadium Series outing, remains to be seen.
Sometimes a Defensive Unit is More Valuable
Tuukka Rask was the Bruins best player on the day, with his .833 save percentage a classic example of how stats don’t always tell you the whole story – especially when it comes to goaltending.
Condon meanwhile was a spectator for large parts of the early play, before being called on a little more as time passed. The save on Spooner aside, Condon was tidy and composed. It wasn’t flashy, a performance only memorable because he is local to the area. But it got the job done and proved the merits of having a solid defensive unit that works well together rather than hoping an all star netminder can bail out a questionable blue line.
NHL is Trying to be Hip – With Mixed Results
Having the teams walk out to John Williams’ Duel of Fates was brilliant, randomly hearing the Ultimate Warriors theme music during a stoppage in play a rare delight; but it seems the NHL is still fighting to find the right tone when it comes to it’s musical efforts and off ice entertainment at the Winter Classic.
Simple Plan, despite their relative success, didn’t enthuse everyone and Boston based band American Authors are hardly in the Katy Perry or Coldplay category of stardom.
Hey, it’s not the Superbowl and doesn’t rake in the millions of dollars the NFL’s showpiece event does – but there is still a feeling the NHL is being a little too reserved or ‘safe’ with its selections,.
It may sound a little odd, with many I am sure adamant the on ice action should come first – but landing a major artist to perform at such an event would help the league validate the Winter Classic as one of pro sports marquee events, and not just a big day out for hockey.