It's the best time of year!
Where does Monday’s marquee event in Philadelphia rank among the five Winter Classics that have been completed?
1. Penguins at Sabres, 2008
The game (2/5): The Penguins won 2-1 in a shootout, with Sidney Crosby scoring the winner; that was arguably the top moment in the Winter Classic’s brief history. Other than the shootout, the game wasn’t overly great. It was hard fought, but only two goals were scored in regulation and the game had to be stopped multiple times to clean the ice.
The spectacle (1/5): Probably the best yet that there has been. The scene at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo in 2008 made the Winter Classic as popular of an event as it is today. The snow globe effect was tremendous, as the Penguins and Sabres played through heavier snow showers as the game went on. Since the Classic was something new and exciting, there something magical about that first one in Buffalo.
2. Rangers at Flyers, 2012
The game (1/5): It was well played right from the start. Even though both teams kind of had a feeling out process, it was still a physical contest with some scoring chances and emotions running high. Once the puck started finding the back of the net, it felt like a playoff game. The finish was must-see TV, as Henrik Lundqvist stoned Danny Briere on a penalty shot with 19.6 seconds left to give the Rangers a come-from-behind 3-2 victory. Also a plus: Mother Nature had no effect on the game.
The spectacle (3/5): The buzz is in the ballpark was electric well before puck was dropped. The game was pushed back to 3 p.m. local time, which gave the game a primetime setting most of the way. It also didn’t hurt that there were some snow flurries. From a baseball stadium point of view, it was a better fit for the Classic than Fenway or Wrigley. Overall, it was a great scene in Philadelphia on Monday.
3. Capitals at Penguins, 2011
The game (4/5): It didn’t match the hype. Of the five Winter Classics, Pens-Caps had the most anticipation, due to Crosby vs. Ovechkin and HBO's 24/7. The Capitals won 3-1 in a game that was affected by the weather. In Pittsburgh last year it was in the 50’s and rainy, which made the playing conditions less than ideal. The game itself was viewed as a dud by many people.
The spectacle (2/5): The scene at Heinz Field was incredible. The fact that the game was shifted to primetime gave it a great spectacle. The stadium was evenly split between Capitals red and Penguins black and blue, which made the atmosphere great. The rainy weather dampened things as the game went on, but everything before then was grade-A.
4. Flyers at Bruins, 2010
The game (3/5): Boston’s overtime win was definitely memorable. Trailing 1-0 in the third period, Mark Recchi tied the game for the Bruins at 1-1 with just over two minutes remaining. Early into overtime, Boston’s Marco Sturm won the game and sent the Fenway faithful into pandemonium. Like Monday’s contest, it was a well played, physical contest that was not hampered by the weather.
The spectacle (5/5): I’d say the spectacle in Boston wasn’t up to par with the other five. It was a cold and gray day in Beantown – which is fine for the Classic, but there wasn’t any special about it and the game itself wasn’t great until the end. There’s obviously a lot of history at Fenway Park, but it may be the worst place to watch a hockey game out of the five venues.
5. Red Wings at Blackhawks, 2009
The game (5/5): It was the least memorable of the five. Detroit pulled away before crunch-time and Chicago didn’t make things interesting in the third period. The Red Wings won 6-4 in a game that didn’t have as many memorable moments as the other four. I think the disappointing game took away from the rest of the experience at Wrigley.
The spectacle (4/5): Like Fenway, Wrigley just isn’t a great place to watch a hockey game – but it was a festive atmosphere. The NHL picked the perfect time for Chicago to host the Classic, as the team was just turning the corner and there was finally a lot of excitement in the city again for the ‘Hawks. On a cold and cloudy, the crowd was kind of taken out of it as Detroit built its lead.
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