Photo: Getty Images
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 Shot Location Data
2014 Winter Classic Game in 6
Photo: Toronto Star
From USA Today - 3/1/2007:
Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke has always been among the NHL’s most colorful wheeler dealers. In 2005-06, he overhauled his team midseason and made a strong playoff run. Last summer, he made a major swap to land franchise defenseman Chris Pronger. Heading into Tuesday’s trade deadline, Burke hoped to make a major splash. He was able to make one deal, but he was unable to land one of the premium forwards. This is his diary of his efforts to make the major deadline deal:
Wednesday, Feb. 7
We’re interested in Peter Forsberg, but when Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren calls I tell him we aren’t trading (first-round pick) Bobby Ryan. We go through a package and I reject several names, including Corey Perry. I say, “No.” Homer and I are fishing buddies, and he jokingly says he wants to help us win the Stanley Cup by trading me Forsberg. I say, “We’re out,” and Homer says he wants me to stay in.
Thursday, Feb. 8
Homer and I talk again on Forsberg and this time he talks about Perry again. He tells me that he has a better offer on the table than Perry and a high pick. I say Perry isn’t going anywhere. We discuss multiple names to go with the high pick and they ask for specific players (Perry, Ilya Bryzgalov, Chris Kunitz). I like Homer and want him to succeed, but I’m thinking we would be better off looking at Todd Bertuzzi and the possibility of landing another defenseman. But (Florida GM/coach) Jacques Martin isn’t shopping Bertuzzi yet. We are looking at defensemen around the league who could end up being available —Brent Sopel, Brad Stuart and Sami Salo. But I think Vancouver is trying to re-sign Salo.
Friday, Feb. 9
I speak to Los Angeles about Sopel. Trying to trade is like playing musical chairs. You are always afraid you aren’t going to have a chair at the end. You worry that if you say no on one deal, you may not get any. Also, there is a “keeping up with the Joneses mentality,” particularly in the Western Conference. Players, coaches and fans want you to add. The allure of making the right trade draws you in. Remember last season when Edmonton was on the verge of missing the playoffs, made some deals, including getting goalie Dwayne Roloson, and they go to the Finals. It’s the most pressure you face all year, and it’s also the most fun you have.
Saturday, Feb. 10
Phoenix offered me Ladislav Nagy for a first-round pick. I call Doug MacLean about the possibility of acquiring Fredrik Modin. He says he’s trying to re-sign him. One of my problems in trying to make a deal is that I don’t have a first-round pick. I’m thinking I could move defenseman Shane O’Brien to get a first-round pick.
Sunday, Feb. 11
I think Tampa Bay’s (GM) Jay Feaster is interested in O’Brien. Homer calls and tells me that two teams are offering two first-round picks and a player for Forsberg, and another team is offering a first, second and another pick. To me, this is too rich for our blood. I think it’s too high of a price for a rental player.
Tuesday, Feb. 13
Feaster tells me he is interested only in hockey deals, not rentals. I have a long talk with St. Louis Blues President John Davidson about Keith Tkachuk. They want Bobby Ryan in a package.
Wednesday, Feb. 14
Officially turn down the Blues. Vancouver GM Dave Non-is, my former assistant, tells me he is going to re-sign Salo. New York Rangers GM Glen Sather tells me he’s not a seller, at least not yet.
Thursday, Feb. 15
Forsberg goes to Nashville. Homer was frustrated with me. He said I didn’t know the marketplace. But I have to give him a lot of credit. He really helped the Flyers with that deal. Tampa Bay offers goalie Gerald Coleman and a second for O’Brien. We want a first- round pick.
Saturday, Feb. 17
I talk to Florida assistant GM Randy Sexton about Todd Bertuzzi, and he tells me “the guy we like is Perry.” I offer him profanity. If you are offended by profanity, it’s difficult to make a trade in the NHL. If you are going to try to rob me, at least wear a mask. We talk to Philadelphia about Kyle Calder.
Monday, Feb. 19
At the general managers meetings in Naples, Fla., Feaster sweetened his offer to a first-round pick and Coleman and he wants a third to go with O’Brien. I call Sather to see if he can better that offer for O’Brien.
Tuesday, Feb. 20
Sather talks to me about O’Brien, and Pleau asks if I want to revisit the Tkachuk deal and make it bigger. We decide it’s not going to work, but we are interested in Bill Guerin. Sather tells me he’s got a good offer for Aaron Ward from another team.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
I call Montreal’s (GM) Bob Gainey and push him about whether he’s going to move any of his defensemen. Gainey says he’s unsure if he’s selling. Timing is beginning to be a problem. I decide to push on this, but I don’t get anywhere.
Sunday, Feb. 25
Tkachuk is finally traded to Atlanta for Glen Metropolit and first-, second- and third-round picks, plus another first-rounder if the Thrashers re-sign him. Davidson and GM Larry Pleau hit it out of the park on that one. We decide to trade O’Brien to Tampa Bay. We need the first-round pick to get into the card game. We felt comfortable making the deal because of the way Kent Huskins had played when he was called up. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe thinks he could have trouble re-signing Ryan Smyth. Would I be interested? He said he would want a “Tkachuk style package.” I say we can’t do it. Craig Rivet is traded to San Jose by Montreal, and I call and whine to Gainey about not calling me back and telling me he was available. He tells me that I was late to that party, and he had been talking to Doug Wilson for three weeks. Fair enough.
Monday, Feb. 26
Modin re-signs. While at a game in San Jose, I initiate a deal for Brad May via e-mail. I know him well and like his toughness.
Tuesday, Feb. 27
We were in on several trades. We offered a first and a fourth for Bill Guerin, but the Blues liked the Sharks’ deal better. (Los Angeles GM) Dean Lombardi talked to me about how Mattias Norstrom wanted to stay in southern California and I offered him a first-, second- and third-round pick, but I now believe he never intended to trade him to us. The Anaheim-Los Angeles rivalry is real. We looked at Bertuzzi, but the price was too high. I wanted to make a deal, but I stuck to draft picks. I told our younger players that I wouldn’t trade them and I kept my word. But I did get May. He’s a great character guy with a sunny disposition.
Team Canada has officially released their Olympic roster, but there are a few surprises as to who was left out. Find out why Todd Bertuzzi and Andrew Raycroft were not selected! Click here to read the article.
Micheal A. Aldred
This will be the first and only time these two teams will meet this season. Their last tilt took place on November 22, 2008 in Toronto where Chicago won the game 5-4 in overtime.
Note: Be sure to check out Alex Tran’s quick hits of the day!
A quick look at the Todd Bertuzzi to Toronto scenario, the NHL’s investigation into Chicago’s Marian Hossa contract (boy have they had a tough offseason), more on the Phil Kessel contract status, and a bit about Wayne Primeau’s thoughts going into next season.
It wasn’t long ago when Todd Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund, and Brendan Morrison were the talk of the league. They were arguably the best line in hockey during the 2002-03 season as the trio not only set career highs, but collectively posted 119 goals and 133 assists for 252 points. Not bad for one line. But since the lockout and the Steve Moore incident, every single one of their careers began to go downhill with a heap of steam.
So you’re Brian Burke and it’s July 1st.
Who do you go after? And what is the contract you offer?