Sunday, January 2, 2011

Recap: Game 40 (Winter Classic)

Games: vs. WAS @ Heinz Field (L 3-1)

Notable Highlights:

-If one wanted to, one could find any number of negatives about the Winter Classic: weather, ticket prices, sound quality at Heinz Field until the 2nd period, a regular season game being your league's marquee event despite it not being at the usual speed or standard condition, etc. I would much rather focus on the positive of the event.

First off, is the fact that I can call this an "event". It has become something that even non-NHL fans care about. Even though you can make an argument to the contrary, I would say that is a good thing. While it may not be something that brings droves of fans to the gates and tv, it certainly will increase the curiousity of a non-fan.

Next, I commend the fans of both teams. I'm sure there were some instances of trouble, but I didn't see any from 4pm until the end of the game. This is a heated rivlary, but the fans managed to co-exist in relative peace. Most of the times, a fan attending a game at an NFL stadium in the opposing teams jersey is taking their life in to their own hand. That wasn't the case both in terms of tailgating and inside the game.

The NHL brass isn't something that gets many accolades, but I also want to congratulate them on the event. The ice held up. While it is reported that they were close to delaying the 3rd period during the heaviest of rains, it didn't appear that safety was compromised. The game was completed and was a good contest. The decision to change the start time was a great one. Despite months of advertising that the game would be at 1pm, the switch did not harm ratings (won the night in 18-49 demo, avg of 4.65 million viewers, and had NBC 3rd overall among networks according to and the NHL held its own. That may not sound like a win, but when it comes to the NHL on tv in America, believe me, it is.

Lastly, the players themselves. It can't be easy to remove yourself from the routine that they build for the regular season. Each of these players did so, and did so with a smile on their face. It was a chippy game. All the distractions and hype really didn't affect the 60 minutes that count. Washington earned 2 points, and maybe some bragging rights (I'll still take the Stanley Cup though).

-Sidney Crosby did not have a point in the game. Why is that a good thing? I'm very glad the Islanders stopped his point streak in the previous game. It would be gut-wrenching to think of the greastest point streak the league has seen in years being derailed by a game that isn't quite at NHL speed or quality. I'd suppose you could argue that about most Islanders games though too...

Ghastly Lowlights:

-The Weather was a bit of a disappointment, but it didn't ruin the event. If you live in Pittsburgh you know how odd our weather is. If you don't, let's just say this: Nobody was all that surprised that, despite an aveage temp of 24.7 F for the month of December (nearly 8 degrees below normal), there were a few days with spring-like weather. Boo on you mother nature. The one time everybody wanted it to be cold and snowy...

-Have to say, I would prefer a handshake after the game between the teams. I understand things are heated because this game counts, but this is a national showcase. Sportsmanship is one of the hallmarks of the sport. That is truly important, especially in a sports landscape where bad behavior and disrespect reigns.

-I'll be sad to see the HBO series come to an end Wednesday. It has been nothing short of excellent. A sincere thank you to everyone involved with it.

-"Incidental Contact" wiped a potential tying game off the board from the Penguins, and also took away an Alexander Ovechkin goal. I'm not sure when this became fashionable, but to me, any contact with the goalie that disallows a goal should be a penalty on either the offending offensive player, or the defender if they are deemed to have caused the contact between offensive player and the goalie. Just like you have to be in control of your stick, you should be in control of your body around the crease.

Forward Recaps:

-Jordan Staal truly looked like he had not missed one game this season. He some great work in the defensive end, and seemed to fit well on both the PK and with Evgeni Malkin. Good to see him back in the lineup. It will be interesting to see what kind of chemistry he and Malkin can develop. In their rookie season, they both were very strong together.

-Evgeni Malkin scored a goal on a breakaway. This was easily the biggest suprise of the game. He had a goal in the shootout against the Islanders (despite a terrible night). Maybe he is feeling more comfortable at an area that he struggles with historically.

Defenseman Recaps:

-Brooks Orpik saved a goal on one of the times where Fleury was out of position/wandering. The game could have taken a worse turn without some head's up stick-work by Brooksie. I told you I'd say something positive about him!

Goalie Recaps:

-Mark-Andre Fleury got an assist on the Malkin goal, but the story of the night was his puckhandling. He was caught out of a position at least 3 times. When he wanders from the crease, every Pens fan holds their breath. I am not a believer that one play wins or loses a game, but the 2nd Caps goal was certainly a back breaker considering that it was handed right to the stick of Eric Fehr with an open net.



-F Mike Knuble has scored in 10 straight games against the Pens. Maybe somebody will pick him up before he gets to the crease. I'd imagine nearly all of these goals came from right around the net.

-D John Erskine had a decent scrap with Pens F Mike Rupp in the 1st Period.

-F Eric Fehr had 2 goals for the Caps, helping propel his team to the win. Between that and his wife, wins both on and off the ice for him.

-F Alexander Ovechkin was celebrating the win demonstratively before it even happened. I typically do not have a problem with celebration for achievement, but I would prefer that it waits until after the horn sounds.

-G Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves and was truly the difference in the game.

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