Heavy snowfall that lasted the entire game set a pretty scene for the NHL's biggest game of the regular season. The NHL did a great job assembling a team of shovelers to come out and clear the ice during the commercial breaks, which helped to minimize the effects on the game, but the players sure had to keep their eyes on the puck more than usual, which, as the league would have hoped, reminded me of my own time playing outdoors as a kid. Pucks bounced, were slowed up by snow, and visibility was affected by blowing snow - though not so much as to make it tough to follow for viewers on TV.
Both teams' extra jerseys looked fantastic, and the simple blue-vs.-red scheme was a treat for the eyes. Both Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier donned imitation-old school pads and even imitation wood sticks, which looked pretty neat.
Overall, it seems that the game was a success, given that NBC is reporting that viewership tied the highest-ever regular season game, and figures in Canada were sure to be higher than for any other WC. Hey, it's the Leafs.
2014 NHL Winter Classic posts 2.9 overnight on NBC, ties 2009 Winter Classic for net’s best ever overnight for NHL reg-season gm @NHLonNBC— NBCSportsPR (@NBCSportsPR) January 2, 2014
Moreover, I'm pretty sure that the announced attendance figures last night were world-record setting for an outdoor game of hockey:
While the flow of the game was certainly affected by the amount of snow on the ice (and perhaps the quality of the ice itself), the end result was more or less what you might expect to see in a Leafs-Wings game: Detroit held the zone time advantage and the Leafs wound up out-shot 43-26.
Jonathan Bernier held the Leafs in the game early, later, and late in the game. He had no hope on either Detroit goals, the first of which was scored by Daniel Alfredsson (sigh, of course) on a 2-on-1 that came off a pinch by Cody Franson. Joffrey Lupul did his best to get back, but didn't get enough of the puck to deflect it away from Alfredsson's skates. The second goal was scored on a goalmouth pass to Justin Abdelkader who Franson couldn't tie up quickly enough. Positioning was an issue, there.
James van Riemsdyk was probably the best of the Leafs' forwards last night, generating several chances and scoring a goal. In the end, it was Tyler Bozak who garnered the third star of the night, on the basis of his own goal to put the Leafs ahead 2-1, and then scoring the shootout winner.
Other notes on individual players:
- Nazem Kadri is struggling. Yes, his point totals aren't where we'd like them to be, but it's also a question of little things like turnovers in the wrong places. Carlyle chewed him out on the bench for a bad change, too.
- As per @Hope_Smoke on Twitter, Joffrey Lupul has not scored in 21 of the 32 games he has played in this season. The Leafs need him and Kadri to get going to get some secondary scoring.
- Mark Fraser was scratched again last night, which bodes well for us not seeing him anytime soon. Of course, one of Morgan Rielly or Jake Gardiner is also more likely to sit now that the Leafs have acquired Tim Gleason. This could still get ugly.