Usually, HBO’s 24/7 beats the actual Winter Classic in fanfare and expectation. This year, it has simply been a welcomed preview. The Big House in Ann Arbour, Michigan gathered a record number of bodies (105,491 people), vastly exceeding 71,217 humans attending the first Winter Classic in 2008. After a tough 5-4 SO loss against the Wings on December 21st, the Leafs were due for a victory. Paul Ranger had the right idea, wearing the eye-paint of the tiger and looking very much up for a game which brought him and all those in attendance to the core of their love of hockey. We’ve all been waiting for this a long time, so let’s see how this one panned out.
1) The Leafs are 21-16-5 and this was a proper celebration of the game. Also, in the midst of the Classic it was confirmed that JM Liles and Dennis Robertson were traded to Carolina for a dependable shutdown defenseman Tim Gleason. Don’t expect miracles, but the defensive end of things should be somewhat bolstered by his presence. Now, let’s get to the on-ice happenings. Considering the standings, this was an important game for both teams.
2) The conditions certainly played a major part right from the start, and showering the goaltenders wasn’t really frowned upon as much with all the snow. Frequent breaks for ice cleanup offered a chance for some additional strategizing on the benches. Dump and chase was the name of the game as goalies weren’t advised to take field trips behind their net (Bernier didn’t seem to have any trouble in doing so, though). Also, the surface made it difficult for players like Datsyuk to take full advantage of their puck-handling skills offensively but a lot of it played into Detroit’s hands with the kind of ‘meat and potatoes’ style of play they employ which was obvious by the shot count after the opening frame. The first powerplay of the game came after Abdelkader crosschecked Phaneuf from behind in the corner and the Californian made ice/snow removers were once again called into action. A fresh sheet of ice didn’t help the Leafs who couldn’t really put anything dangerous on Jimmy Howard.
3) Like Healy noticed (or heard on 24/7) all Detroit defenseman are left handed shooters which made it difficult for their defense to handle the puck on their off-side, especially in conditions like these. Unfortunately, the Leafs didn’t take advantage of that throughout the opening period. The Wings got their first man advantage during the middle of the opening frame when Lupul took a revenge on Kindl’s hit by crosschecking Eaves into the head. Bernier had to be really sharp since the Wings’ powerplay didn’t look as lethargic – still, no goals were scored as Dan Cleary looked to the sky following another good save by the Leafs netminder. The period ended with some grit shown by the Leafs and another good penalty kill following an unfortunate penalty call on Dion.
4) The water bottles were a tougher opponent for the likes of Todd Bertuzzi today. The things were frozen solid and required frequent replacements to keep the goaltenders hydrated. As the second period played out, Nazem Kadri got absolutely robbed by Howard on the best opportunity of the game created by Joffrey Lupul. The kid was slamming his stick on the bench for missing that one. We also found out that the elements were no match for the greatness of Pavel Datsyuk who was still doing his thing in the second.
5) The middle frame saw both teams pushing the pace, but the majority of puck possession and chances still belonged to the Red Wings. Half way into it, Dan Cleary couldn’t put the biscuit past a sprawling Jonathan Bernier who got a slight piece of it and continued with his solid performance in this one. Tatar’s rush just prior to that wasn’t something to sneeze at either. The Leafs were spending too much time in their own zone and the Wings almost made them pay. The shot count stood 19-10 in favor of the red team 12 minutes into the 2nd.
6) Wings got a break on a lucky bounce of the boards which put Zetterberg and Alfredsson on a two-on-one break as Franson got caught up ice. Surely enough, that got them first goal of the hockey game. This was followed by another Leafs penalty, Jay McClement sat in the box as Leafs Nation held their breath. A two goal lead with one period to play, in a game like this – yeah, you’re basically done. Fortunately, the PK did it’s job, thanks mostly to some stellar saves by Bernier. First he stole one from Cleary and followed that up with a 10-bell save on Detroit’s top powerplay unit. Some end to end stuff saw Howard do the same on JVR after his big hit, resulting in a Leafs man advantage. It was surely too late, but the US-born goalie was making his final bid for a roster spot at the Sochi Olympics, stopping the Buds time after time. Be that as it may, our own American wouldn’t be denied. JVR tied the game just 37 second from the buzzer by batting a puck out of the air and scoring past Howard who was seemingly unbeatable down low. Phil Kessel (12:43) and van Riemsdyk (12:34) were leading all forwards in ice time after 2.
7) The tying goal set everyone up for a terrific third period. Dion Phaneuf’s bloody lip gave him an some added nastiness, which seemed to be squarely aimed at Daniel Alfredsson. He was pinching and frequently finishing checks, the best of which coming against the Swede in the offensive zone where he got the puck and the man.
8) Our captain also celebrated his new contract with a huge assist from the point. He simply threw a puck to the net, it passed a bunch of bodies and sticks in front and ended up behind Detroit’s goaltender – a quick review was made but it was definitely a good goal, a vital goal, which should kill all the talk about his extension, even if only for a brief period of time. Bozak was credited with a deflection in the end.
9) A half-handed effort by Franson let Abdelkader power his way to the net and put the puck behind Bernier. Nothing in hockey, especially in a spectacle such as this, comes easy. The Wings pinched like crazy and it most certainly paid off. Still, if there was any doubt prior to tonight, Jonathan Bernier used the brightest of spotlights to grab the starting position ahead of James Reimer. Perhaps, this will be the biggest storyline of the Winter Classic. Overtime, as exciting as it was, solved nothing and the game went to a shootout where Tyler Bozak, of all people, scored to end the game. Welcome back sir!
10) The final episode of 24/7 will taste much sweeter now. It’s not a Stanley Cup, but it’s a major win the team can rally around and a soothing sensation for the entire contingent of Leafs Nation, which can finally celebrate something. Enjoy it.
2014 Winter Classic Game in 6
anyone notice that gustavsson didn't even dress as backup during the classic, Merizc (sp) was the one on the bench, odd seeing how Gus had been so good for them this season. Anyone else know why he wants around?
I wonder how much ice time Kadri and Holland got in The Big House. Bozak played a ton, and rightfully so ....boy, is he making some of us eat our words . McClement plays a lot, too, and I sort of get that . But Jay needs to be a 4th line centre and PK man ....that's it . But because he is pretty decent defensively and plays for a coach who thinks defence first, he gets lots of TOI, for a plugger. Holland and Kadri have tons of upside , and lets hope one of them takes the ball and runs with it and becomes a legit offensive centre . Once Bolland returns and recaptures his early season form (we hope), either Kadri or Holland may be odd man out . You have to think Naz is feeling some pressure , what with Holland playing pretty good , and all the rumblings in the media . Somehow, while they continue to leak , this team stays afloat . Should be an interesting final 40 games . Finally, with Gleason in town, does that make Mark a Marlie ?
So what does our back end depth chart look like now:
Ranger is just starting to look good, but now we have Gleason. I wonder how RC plays this. If Fraser gets healthy he could still be back in the mix.
Today we had Phaneuf-Gunnarson, Ranger-Rielly, and Franson-Gardiner. Interesting to see where it goes.
This was probably posted earlier but boy does Burke ever not like Bobby Ryan. This is what he said about him while deliberating team USA
"I think we have to know what we're taking with Bobby," says Burke, who had him in Anaheim when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
"He's a passive guy," Burke says. And over 82 games, yes, Saad and or Pacioretty might be more attractive than Ryan. But Ryan's a game-breaker.
"He is not intense. That word is not in his vocabulary," Burke says. "It's never going to be in his vocabulary. He can't spell intense."
Burke recalls fighting with his scouts in Anaheim over whether to take Bobby Ryan or Jack Johnson at the 2005 draft.
The scouts won and the Ducks took Ryan.
"I should have taken Jack," Burke says. "No way he lets us down for 12 days.
Good write up as usual. Just curious about the shot diagram, the locations appear as if you were looking from under the ice. We may have fish friends as fans, but aren't most Leafs above ground? :)
I think what really is upsetting people about Kadri is we know he can play better. But since he was chirping a little too much during contract talks, he might of rubbed fans and staff the wrong way. Confidence is great when you can back it up all the time. He's still young though so he's letting his lack of maturity get the better of him. He should get off the social media fix and just listen to those that are really hockey wise. Not the trolls on social media.
@B_LeafCan never have enough NHL dmen right?
Phil Kessel is a little passive no?
For the record I would not have taken Bobby Ryan for the team either
@Bruffins I have very low expectations for Holland.
Doubt Gunnarsson will make Team Sweden, but Kulemin has a solid chance at making Team Russia.
The guy has scored over 30 goals every year since hes been in the league except for the lockout year. Not sure I can leave him off over Blake Wheeler. With that said US still have a pretty well put together team.
@.JVR. I would say the reverse.
Plus look at other players and they don't talk much about their contract talks. They just give out vague answers to the media.
@Gilbey93 @NotSince67 @deedrag @Bruffins Look, I'm not slaggin him for wanting to get paid. But he is by far the first player I can remember trying to get in a pissing match with the media over his first contract extension. It showed to some that Kadri thought perhaps too highly of himself (go figure...) and that may have had his head on his money rather than what got him to where he was, and what he needed to do to continue his success.
And I won;t lie, he did come in looking slower and heavier, and has been criticized in the past for issues coming into camp (Dallas Eakins)
I like Kadri and believe he has lots of gifts but you can't ask for more if you don't back it up like Kessel has or even Dion has. Simple as that. Especially when he was playing sheltered minutes.
@CanuckUKinToronto @NotSince67 @mattobv I'm not saying he sucks, or he's bad. Conversely, I'm saying he has issues with his game. As an NHLer you either stupidly excel at aspects that people overlook your deficiencies (Dany Heatley) but most players will have to round themselves out and get rid of their weaknesses.
Holland has potential, but he's not ready to play significant minutes in the NHL for any team capable of winning on a nightly basis. IMO, unless they play him on the 4th line wing and try to teach him how to play the wing, he's better served playing in the AHL developing his defensive game and his ability to use his linemates better, becoming a better distributor instead of only being a shooting threat.
I think you feel I think he's trash, and really I don't. I simply see a kid who needs to work on his game, and my expectations as he projects into his prime still is closer to 25G 30A and near the 50 point mark. But that's assuming he "puts it together" which I haven't seen yet. There's a difference between a kid who has potential and a kid who's ready. And frankly, the Leafs passed the stage of giving kids unearned shots based on talent and promise. The Leafs are officially in the business of winning tonight, tomorrow, and nightly. Holland is not part of a winning roster as a significant contributor, IMO. Not not, maybe in a few years.
What you said was true but a manipulation of the fact preceeding those 12 games Holland was pointless in 5, averaging about 9 minutes per game in those 5, 18 minutes one night and 12 another.
@CanuckUKinToronto @NotSince67 @mattobv He's on pace for less than 40 pts over 82 games. With an ABNORMALLY high shooting percentage of 24% If you take his 3 point game which is essentially a third of all his production this season, he drops to a 20% shooting percentage, and has 7 points in 24 games. That is not production.
You literally are taking a sample size of 12 games when he's had a hot hand that statistically we know is not possible to maintain and try to extrapolate out that he's a good player. It's simply not true.
Secondly, if you still take that 3 point game, he has points in 7 of 25 games. Of those 25, he's played 14:50+ 9 times, 12+ 13 times. And still then only posts 8 points in those 13 games, despite shooting at a 24% clip. When you factor in he has 6 goals versus 4 assists, where is he when he regresses to the norm?
Now you're talking like 2 goals, 4 assists 6 points in 13 games. Which is wholly not deserving of more ice time.
@CanuckUKinToronto @NotSince67 @mattobv Sure he can play. He can definitely be a 4th liner for us with Bolland out. He's probably the #3 Centre... for the Panthers. But he's not really ready.
Holland is an offensive player, he is not a checker. But he's not producing.
I mean, yes, Holland has points in 7 games so far this season. All coming in games where he's played more than 10 minutes. Sounds like a guy who isn't getting a chance right? But he's played 13 games over 12 minutes, 8 games at over 15 minutes, and one at 14:50 only recording points in 3 of those games.
What do I take from that? He's inconsistent for one. Secondly, he has had opportunities. When he plays well, RC will RIDE him, and he's produced when he's on. But he's not an answer on a night-to-night basis and is better served playing in the A rounding out his game.
Holland can't play defense. He's soft, and loses man battles. In fact that is what RC is asking him to do more of, to work on, and he will get his ice.
Nazzy had 17 Points in his first 24 games, 19 in 25. People were saying "he looks slower, isn't bringing the same swagger" but the tune of the conversation has changed drastically since putting up 4 points in his last 13.
@mattobv I'd like to add, I respect Brian Murray a ton. I believe he would chat with his brother Bob, the GM out in Anaheim. Bruce Boudreau had him back and forth, and wad down on the 4th line. Spent a ton of time in the AHL. Even with Staubitz only fetched a 3rd and a 7th, effectively saying Anaheim traded him for a 3rd round pick. I can say with conviction Anaheim decided to turn the page on Holland and let him try his luck elsewhere. They did not see any potential player worth anything past a 2nd or 3rd round pick.
What does that say about Holland? It's not just RC. Holland is player who needs to round out him game in order to stick in this league and has some serious developing before he will become remotely effective.
@NotSince67 Exactly. He's a nice looking player who's shown some upside, but he needs to play in the AHL and get top 6 minutes.,
@mattobv Holland only has point in six of 24 games. That's not very good considering goal production is all he really brings to the table. Historicall he's gonna score at a 1:1 ratio or close to regarding goals:assists. Not impressed.
In fact, take away his 3 point night and he's got 6 points in 23 games this season.
Holland has played well, Kadri hasn't, small sample size but people are just reacting to what they see
@dlb eh @Bruffins yes but it also minimizes the possibility of injuries. phaneuf has an outside shot at making the team. besides our two top players are gonna be big on USA. kulemin mayyy make Russia he has been in their system for a long time, but no one else. Bernier has a shot I think. Depends how much pull Leiweke has.
@lukethenuke You're just listing players further and further behind Gunnar now. And yes I have seen Hjalmersson play...he's either just given the puck away, or he's about to.
@djamon tallinder... okay ill stop
@lukethenuke Yes, yes, yes, no, yes, yes, no.