As is tradition, along with the New Year comes the NHL Winter Classic. This season the match would be between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings.The first period of the game had no scoring, but did have some excellent play by Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier who kept the Wings off the board in the first. The first goal of the game would come in the latter half of the second period, with a Detroit 2-on-1 resulting in a goal from Daniel Alfredsson. The Leafs would answer this goal before the end of the period, putting up a tally of their own with a bat out of the air from James van Riemsdyk.
Early in the third period a Dion Phaneuf point shot would be tipped by Tyler Bozak to give the Leafs the lead. However, towards the end of the period, the Wings’ Justin Abdelkader was able to put one past Bernier to tie it up at two. Overtime would solve nothing, leading this game to a shootout. Bozak would end up putting the shootout winner past Jimmy Howard to lock up two points for the Blue and White.
Some thoughts on the game:
There is nothing more exciting than seeing a crowd of over 100,000 screaming fans in attendance to cheer on their team in this incredible outdoor game. However, along with this electrifying atmosphere came the battle against the outdoor elements. Snow fell throughout the whole game, causing the players to have to adapt to the conditions. The best play was more than often a simple dump-and-chase instead of attempting a ton of passing through the snow on the ice. The players seemed to adapt better after the first period, though. Overall, the game is fun to watch, but the playing experience is very different for the players.
Bernier came up huge again for the Leafs, putting up some excellent saves and allowing the Leafs to stay with the Wings throughout the game. He stopped 41 of 43 shots in his First Star performance.
Bozak has been a huge help to Toronto’s lineup since he came back from injury. With a goal and the shootout winner in this game, he has proved through his play that he is deserving of the first-line centreman spot over Nazem Kadri who struggled in that position during Bozak’s absence. The first line has been very dangerous since his return, which is exactly what the Leafs need them to be if they want to be successful.
Along with the excitement of the game itself came the announcement of the Team USA roster for the upcoming Olympics. Both Phil Kessel and van Riemsdyk were announced as members of the squad, which considering the chemistry that is already established between the two, will be a dangerous duo for the States.
With the Leafs moving on to battle the New York Rangers on Saturday, they will look to build off of this big Winter Classic victory with another two-point performance.