Today is the big day! The Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings are gearing up to take it outside in about an hour to participate in this year’s Winter Classic. A record crowd of 107,000 or so will be packed into Michigan Stadium to take in the atmosphere, and I dare say there will be more than a few Leafs fans who made the trek from nearby Southern Ontario.
It’s going to be cold, so if you are planning to head down to the stadium, dress warmly. You won’t be dealing with Edmonton-level temperatures out there, but minus-11 degrees Celsius (12 degrees Fahrenheit) coupled with a wind chill still isn’t balmy by any means. But that’s all part of the atmosphere, right? I’ll be thinking of you sitting beside my fireplace watching on TV.
Jonathan Bernier will see the crease for the fourth straight game, the first such streak a Leaf goaltender has seen all season. The guy on the other end will be Jimmy Howard, who started for the first time since December 10 in a 6-4 loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday. It was a shaky return for Howard, so the Leafs will look to test him early to see if that performance is repeated this afternoon.
Both teams have struggled (as clearly documented if you’ve been following the 24/7 HBO documentary over the last few weeks), so maybe a chance to get outside and breathe in the crisp, fresh air will do them some good. The teams are tied for fourth in the Atlantic Division, and sit precariously in the two wild-card spots at the moment. They’ll be hoping to start the New Year on the right foot and make some ground on the third-place Montreal Canadiens, while still trying to keep the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators from nipping their heels.
For information on how to watch, how to listen, when the game starts, as well as the starting lineups and injuries, be sure to take in the preview compiled by Jeff. I have a feeling Daniel Alfredsson is going to play despite injury concerns, just because this will probably be his last opportunity to play in a game like this. I also have a weird hunch that Jerry D’Amigo is going to score for the Leafs, because he’s due for a goal and these outdoor games always seem to provide unexpected moments. Am I wrong?
Please comment below as you watch the game. If you’re especially irritated by the Leafs’ play because of a wicked hangover this afternoon, well, just know that you’re not alone. You can follow along with the tweeters right here:
GOOOOOOOOOOOOO LEAFS GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!