Normally here at Blue Line Station we cover New York Rangers only, but from time to time we like to stray off and focus on other happenings around the NHL.
Yesterday, the biggest outdoor game in the history of the league took place in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Big House, where the University of Michigan’s football team plays it’s home games, was host to the 2014 Winter Classic between two original six teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.
A record 105,491 people packed into the stadium to watch the game unfold on a sheet of ice in the middle of the football field. Snow was falling, which created the perfect scenery and backdrop to where the game of hockey all started, outdoors. The precipitation was clocked in at about half an inch per hour. The weather effects were being felt early on in the game as just three minutes into the opening period, the ice crew had to step on to shovel the excess snow off the ice surface.
The first period turned out to be a slow one and took nearly an hour to complete. There was no scoring as the teams looked to be feeling each other out and also tried to get used to the rink they were skating on.
In the second stanza, play really picked up as Detroit was getting a majority of the scoring chances and it was only a matter of time before the first goal would be scored. That goal came from veteran Daniel Alfredsson, off his skate no less. The goal was reviewed and it stood as it was deemed a stopping motion and not a kicking motion, which made the game 1-0 in favor of Detroit. With under a minute left, New Jersey native James van Reimsdyk found himself on the side of the net with the puck bouncing in front of him. With tremendous hand-eye coordination, he swatted at the puck and it flew over Jimmy Howard’s shoulder to tie the game at 1.
Heading into the third, everybody felt the anticipation as people knew it was going to be an insane twenty minutes with both teams pushing for two points and jockeying for position in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic division. About five minutes into the period, Dion Phaneuf took a shot from the point which was deflected beautifully by Tyler Bozak and past Howard. This goal was reviewed as well and Bozak’s stick was found to be below the crossbar and the goal stood, it was 2-1 in favor of the Leafs. Toronto looked to be in shape with just over five minutes remaining, but Justin Abdelkader spoiled the party with a backhand one-timer that found it’s way through Jonathan Bernier. The third period ended with a 2-2 scoreline and the teams would need an extra five minute period to settle their differences.
The overtime featured no scoring as both teams chipped away searching for the game-winning goal. For the first time since the 08′ Classic, the two sides went to a shootout.
Bozak, who got the go-ahead goal in regulation, notched the game-winner in the shootout and gave his team the extra point as the Leafs celebrated a well-earned victory over their rivals.
This was a game to remember for sure. It had all the aspects of a classic hockey game; an outdoor setting, snow, screaming fans, and things of that nature. The spectacle was one that fans and players will not soon forget, and there is also plenty of time for the Red Wings to avenge their Winter Classic defeat.
This is also not the last time we will see an outdoor event held this year. There are five outdoor games remaining with two of them involving the Rangers. Here they are:
• Ducks vs. Kings at Dodger Stadium, Jan. 25
• Devils vs. Rangers at Yankee Stadium, Jan. 26
• Islanders vs. Rangers at Yankee Stadium, Jan 29
• Penguins at Blackhawks, Soldier Field, March 1
• Senators at Canucks, BC Place, March 2
We have some good match-ups on tap late in the month so get prepared for some more outdoor hockey!