Winter Classic Post-Mortem: We’re Onto 2017..But Where?

The hype for the Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens was real right up until the puck was dropped just after 1:30 on Friday afternoon.

Habs forward David Desharnais scored 74 seconds in, setting the tone for the Habs 5-1 victory over a Bruins team that performed as if they’d rolled out of bed at 1:15 following a night of a few too many cocktails.

So it’s onto the next Winter Classic. Or in the Bruins case, Tuesday night’s date with current Eastern Conference standard-bearer Washington. But who wants to talk about that potential ugliness given the B’s recent stretch (four losses in last five games)?

So let’s bury the tape of B’s-Habs No. 910 next to the Pats infamous 30-10 loss to the Dolphins in Week 4 of the 2001 season and move onto the 2017 classic.

Here’s 10 possible matchups for the ninth Winter Classic:

Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia at Beaver Stadium, Penn State. Penn State has had a hockey renaissance, with its men’s hockey program (which began competing in NCAA Division I in 2013) ranked 14th in the country, playing with NCAA Tournament aspirations. And why has there not been a Flyers-Penguins Winter Classic yet? Imagine that matchup. Eating nails for breakfast while the rest of the world feasts on bacon. It wouldn’t be bad television, that’s for sure. Though, I suppose the same was said about Bruins-Canadiens.

Dallas vs. Minnesota at Target Field, Minneapolis. I’m not a fan of these games being played a baseball parks, but U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings set to open later this year, is a retractable roof facility. When in doubt, go with the open-air facility. So I’ll give the Ballpark Exception because Minnesota deserves to have a bone thrown its way. They’ve had it twice in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, once in Michigan, Buffalo, Chicago, then once in Washington D.C. Do you really think Washington D.C. is more of a hockey hotbed than Minnesota? Don’t answer that.

Anyway, a reunion of sorts, the artists formerly known as the North Stars against the Wild, who helped fill the Mike Modano-sized void in Minnesota’s heart after the Stars departed for Dallas in 1993. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn will put on a show opposite$98 million boys Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

Colorado vs. Detroit at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It was the rivalry of the 1990s. Upon the 15th anniversary of the New Year’s Day sandwiched between the successive Stanley Cups the franchises won in 2001 (Avs) and 2002 (Wings), the last of five Cups the two teams combined to win over a seven-year span between 1996 and 2002, what better way to celebrate that great rivalry than a Winter Classic?

Vancouver vs. Boston at CenturyLink Field, Seattle. Granted, it’s highly unlikely there’ll be a second straight Bruins appearance in the classic after Friday’s showing. But listen to this idea. It’s been five years since the Bruins and Canucks seven-game fight where a few hockey games broke out. Time flies when you’re having fun. And, as Jack Edwards would say, who has more fun than us? Seeing a hockey game in the deafening home of the Seattle Seahawks and the 12th Man would be really fun. Since Seattle has no team to hitch its wagon to, the Vancouver crazies can make the trip down to Seattle, which is less than three hours away from British Columbia’s largest city. It could be a nice litmus test for whether Seattle is a viable destination for NHL expansion/relocation.

New Jersey vs. Philadelphia at MetLife Stadium. A trip to the old stomping grounds for the Devils, who spent 25 years across the parking lot at the Izod Center before moving to nearby Newark in 2007. It’s where the Devils lived out their glory days, winning all three of their Stanley Cups (1995, 2000, 2003) as residents of East Rutherford, N.J. What better celebration of those years than a tilt with the Flyers, who New Jersey defeated in in the Eastern Conference Finals that preceded its first two cups?

Columbus vs. NY Rangers at Ohio Stadium. Gotta play one at The Horseshoe. Only problem is the Blue Jackets don’t move the needle in Columbus. Or anywhere for that matter. Get the ratings machine that is the Rangers and play one before 100,000. Blueshirts fans can make a visit to the Football Hall of Fame, or something.

St. Louis vs. Chicago at Busch Stadium. Sightlines! Sightlines! Sightlines! Play in the masterpiece of ballyard architecture beneath the Gateway Arch. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews against Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes. Two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith against Alexander Pietrangelo, who is too good not to win one or two eventually. A celebration of the St. Louis-Chicago sports rivalry, one that doesn’t get the love it deserves. This one passes the Ballpark Exception with flying colors.

Chicago vs. Detroit at Lambeau Field. There’s a lot of injustices in this world, among the greatest being the fact the Great State of Wisconsin doesn’t have an NHL franchise. Sunrise, Fla., but not Milwaukee. Makes perfect sense. Send the Packers on the road for Week 17 and give the Cheeseheads a grudge match of the 2009 Winter Classic, and another classic Original Six rivalry.

NY Islanders vs. Washington at Citi Field. If I had my druthers, this game would be at the Mack Sports Complex at Hofstra University, and give the Isles a home game back where they belong. But more than 5,000 seats are needed, which is why ‘The Mack’, or the 6,000-seat Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, N.Y., doesn’t cut it. Sorry, no Ballpark Exception for the home of the Long Island Ducks. So Citi Field is the closest thing. Ballpark Exception because it’s the biggest facility that side of the Throng’s Neck.

Islanders-Capitals, John Tavares vs. Alex Ovechkin, a meeting of the old Patrick Division rivals, who had six consecutive playoff tilts from 1983-88. Dale Hunter and Pierre Turgeon meet at center ice and drop the ceremonial first puck. OK, maybe not.

Buffalo vs. Edmonton at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Sometimes you just have to go home. It was the first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium that got the ball rolling on this thing. Who wouldn’t want to see a showdown between Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid, the first two picks of the 2015 NHL Draft?

Hey, as long as it’s better than the dud that was the game played Friday afternoon at Gillette.

Winter Classic: The Best, the Worst, the Best Performers, the Quirky Numbers

There’s been seven Winter Classics going back to its 2008 inception. The eighth will be played on Friday afternoon at Gillette Stadium when the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens take the outdoors for the latest installment of the hockey rivalry that is among the top one percent in sports lore.

Here’s a look at the first seven classics.

Ranking ‘em one through seven

  1. 2008, Pittsburgh def. Buffalo, 2-1 (SO) at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The first of anything most times is the best of anything, and the inaugural Winter Classic in Buffalo has been hard to top. The snow falling, the back-and-forth action between the two teams set the scene for great hockey and an even better sightline. Too often a buzzkill, the shootout added to the moment for once, with Sidney Crosby – the game’s biggest star – potting the winner in the skills competition. Nothing could’ve better set the tone for the event than this game.
  2. 2010, Bruins def. Philadelphia, 2-1 (OT). Mark Recchi scored with 2:18 left in regulation, setting up the B’s overtime win when Patrice Bergeron found Marco Sturm on the doorstep to give Boston the win. Though the B’s likely wished they saved that victory for May, as they lost to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, blowing a 3-0 series in the best-of-seven set.
  3. 2015, Washington def. Chicago, 3-2. The eventual Stanley Cup champs Chicago Blackhawks lost to the host Capitals, as Troy Brouwer scored with 13 seconds remaining in regulation. Eric Fehr continued his Winter Classic prowess, scoring 7:01 into the game to give the Caps the first lead, his third goal in two Winter Classic games.
  4. 2012, New York def. Philadelphia, 3-2. Drama is what makes the world go around, and there was plenty at Citizens Bank Park. Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh was called for covering the puck in the crease, leading to a Flyers penalty shot, with 19.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Henrik Lundqvist turned aside Danny Briere’s bid to ice the game, but it didn’t end there, as Blueshirts head coach John Tortorella insisted the call was an inside job by the league to force overtime. The coach was fined $30,000 for the comments.
  5. 2014, Toronto def. Detroit, 3-2 (SO). The second of two Winter Classics to be decided by a shootout. Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier stopped 41 shots in regulation and overtime before turning aside two of three bids in the skills competition.
  6. 2009, Detroit def. Chicago, 6-4. The highest scoring game by far. The defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings scored five unanswered goals in the second and third period to take control of the game. Jiri Hudler (2-1–3), Henrik Zetterberg (0-3-3), and Marian Hossa (0-3–3) each had three-point games.
  7. 2011, Washington def. Pittsburgh, 3-1. The game was pushed back to 8 p.m. due to weather concerns, delaying the Crosby-Alex Ovechkin showdown. Fehr scored the second and third goals to give the Caps the win.

Records

  1. Washington (2-0)
  2. Detroit (1-0-1)
  3. Boston (1-0)
  4. New York Rangers (1-0)
  5. Toronto (1-0)
  6. Pittsburgh (1-1)
  7. Buffalo (0-0-1)
  8. Philadelphia (0-1-1)
  9. Chicago (0-2)

All-Winter Classic Team

F- Jiri Hudler. Scored two goals and assisted on another in the 2009 Winter Classic, leading the Red Wings to the 6-4 win over Chicago at Wrigley Field.

F- Mark Recchi. Scored the game-tying goal with 2:18 remaining, setting up the Bruins 2-1 overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park.

F- Eric Fehr. The Caps forward has three goals in two games (2011, 2015), playing a key role in Washington being the lone NHL team to win multiple Winter Classics.

D- Dion Phaneuf. The Toronto Maple Leafs captain did all the heavy lifting in the 2014 classic, a 3-2 shootout win for the Leafs, logging 28:24 of ice-time and assisting on both Toronto goals in regulation.

D- Dan Girardi. The Rangers blueliner was on the ice for 28:35 of the 60-minute game in 2012, which remains the standard for ice time in the Winter Classic.

G- Henrik Lundqvist. The marquis game of King Hank’s Vezina Trophy-winning campaign of the 2011-12 season, turning aside 34 of 36 shots. He stymied Philadelphia’s Danny Briere on a penalty shot with 19.6 seconds left in regulation to seal the win.

Winter Classic by the Numbers

*Washington Capitals (2-0) the lone team to win multiple Winter Classics.

*The Bruins become the sixth team to play in two Winter Classics, joining Washington (2-0), Pittsburgh (1-1), Detroit (1-0-1), Philadelphia (0-1-1), and Chicago (0-2).

*Five of the seven games have been decided by one goal, and none have been decided by more than two. Three have required more than 60 minutes of play, two have been decided by a shootout.

*No player has ever scored a hat trick, and no goalie has ever recorded a shutout.

*Gillette Stadium is the third NFL venue to host the event, joining Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium (2008) and Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field (2011). Four games have been held in baseball stadiums, with one being held in a college football venue, when Detroit hosted Toronto at Michigan Stadium in 2014.

*Four teams (Pittsburgh, 2008; Chicago, 2009; Boston, 2010; Chicago, 2015) won the Stanley Cup within two years after playing in the Winter Classic. The Blackhawks became the first team to win the cup in the same season after participating in the Winter Classic, when they won their third Stanley Cup since 2010 this past June.

Winter Classic..Nothing Like It

There’s few things sports fans crave more than being able to relate to the athletes they idolize. In a time where players make more money in a month than most make in a lifetime, the search for such common ground has grown more arduous by the year.

That’s where the Winter Classic comes into play.

Since its inaugural showing on the first day of the year 2008, a Buffalo Sabres home tilt with the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., the classic has been the NHL’s journey to the outdoors for one day. An escape from the concrete-padded arena into the wilderness of the outdoors. From 40,000-seat baseball stadiums to 100,000-seat college football venues to 70,000-seat NFL facilities, the game has been a journey to where the game began.

OK, so maybe we’re not going into the middle of the woods with negative temperatures, whipping winds, and conditions that make most yearn for the summer months. The 2016 Winter Classic will be played between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens on Friday afternoon amidst Gillette Stadium, the home of the NFL’s New England Patriots. The high temperature is supposed to be 40 degrees. So it’s not necessarily the holy cornfield of pucks that is a frozen pond in frigid weather in the deep, dark cold of winter. But you get the point.

The sight takes you back to the lake behind your house where you’d lace up the skates when you couldn’t feel your toes. You’d meet up with some buddies and play some pick-up. It wasn’t really the Bruins and Canadiens, but you pretended it was. You fought over who was Bobby Orr. Meanwhile, Guy Lafleur was up for the taking.

For Billy from Brockton watching the game from Row 215, he’ll harbor similar memories as Patrice Bergeron, skating in his second Winter Classic as one of the premier hockey players in the world. There’s nothing like it.

We’ve seen it all in just a short time. Games being delayed due to warm temperatures causing the ice to melt. Who hasn’t had that letdown of unseasonable warmth when they just want to skate around for a bit? Snow has fallen as players battle for the puck, fight for the two points at stake.

It’s the biggest stage. NBC. Doc Emrick. Pierre McGuire. The chances of Thursday’s games being the most watched regular season NHL game ever outweigh the chances of it not. Yet here you are, back in the virtual world of being a kid. The beauty of the game. The serenity of the scene. It’s not what you get for admission within the concrete walls of the TD Garden or Bell Centre, or the hockey cathedrals that preceded them, the Boston Garden or Montreal Forum.

The event’s uniqueness is one of a kind. Find such an example of the NBA, NHL, MLB taking a game and making a masterpiece of it. Good luck. And don’t say the MLB All-Star Game because it decides which pennant winner hosts the first game of the World Series. That’s a travesty, not a masterpiece.

The Winter Classic does count. Two points will be a stake. The break-glass-in-case-of-emergency third point will be on site in case a decision isn’t reached after 60 minutes of hockey, as has happened three times in the first seven classics. The winner takes over first place in the NHL’s Atlantic Division.

The game will captivate the imaginations of all within the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium from players to fans to staff, as well the millions watching the game on television in restaurants, bars, and living rooms across North America. The memories of going out on the ponds will be triggered. You’ll lose feeling in your hands a little bit – don’t be alarmed, it’s just nostalgia – as the thoughts flow through your mind.

In a time where NHL players earn an average of $2.6 million with players earning as much as $14 million, such a common ground seems impossible to come by. By going back to where the game originated, where the love of the game for many was found, that common ground is achieved annually upon the commencement of a new year.

#HockeyLinks: B’s Rock ’em, Sock ’em Style Makes Appearance

The Big Bad Bruins were back on Tuesday night, a 7-3 win over the Ottawa Senators at the TD Garden. The two teams racked up a combined 110 penalty minutes, 82 of which came in the final 1:03 of the game, when extracurriculars led to four fighting majors and six 10-minute misconducts being doled out by the officiating crew.

Something seldom seen in today’s NHL, one trying to shed the pugilistic label that has been one of the league’s finest selling points for virtually its entire existence. The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa was delighted to see its brief return on Tuesday.

During the fight, a hockey game broke out. The Bruins hung seven on the Senators in the back end of a home-and-home with Ottawa, the cherry atop the offensive performance being Jimmy Hayes’s buzzer-beating tally at the end of regulation, completing his first career hat trick.

The B’s snapped a three-game losing streak, avoiding their first home-and-home sweep since 2011. Most impressively, the seven-goal onslaught was done sans center David Krejci, who was placed on IR on Tuesday with an upper-body injury. Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com touched on the good sign that came of the effort.

Next up for the Bruins is the Winter Classic, when they’ll take on the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium on New Year’s Day. The ice is now up at Big Razor. Kevin Paul Dupont went into the process of building the rink.

With one of the greatest rivalries in hockey squaring off in the the game, plenty of memories should be made. Not that there haven’t been countless ones made over nearly a century of the B’s-Habs rivalry, and the 97-year-old Milt Schmidt thought of a few when he sat down with Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald.

And hey, while the Winter Classic didn’t come into existence in 2008, there’s been plenty of memories made over its short history.

Get ready for a few more to be made on Friday afternoon in Foxboro. And don’t be surprised if some gloves meet the temporary ice surface.