The Pittsburgh Penguins faced the Boston Bruins in Fenway Park for the Winter Classic. And no, that wasn't a repeat. The Bruins have appeared four times, the Penguins three. Normally, I don't like them recycling the same teams, but the Penguins have generational talent still in their prime, and the Bruins are the top team this season, so it made sense. Of course, they didn't know that when they scheduled it.
Wayne Gretzky doesn't appear much anymore on TNT telecasts, but he was present for this one, and boy, did he look like he didn't want to be there. He did have a fun story about Bobby Orr scoring a goal with his glove off.
The game itself was a bit boring. Maybe it's because it was hard for me to focus because of all my personal life issues. The Penguins dominated the first period, and then it became more even. Jake DeBrusk scored right after the Bruins' power play expired to tie the game in the third. Ten minutes later, DeBrusk scored again, courtesy of some nice moves by Taylor Hall. I bet DeBrusk is happy he stayed in Boston. The Penguins had some great chances in the final minutes, where Evgeni Malkin almost tied it but was half a second late. Personally, I would have loved some overtime, and I also wish it had been snowing.
Next year we're back to something new. The Seattle Kraken will host the Vegas Golden Knights. That should be a fun atmosphere. Somewhat similar to the Colorado Avalanche hosting the game in Lake Tahoe. Okay, maybe not that close. This will be the first Winter Classic for both teams, although the Golden Knights were the opponent in the Lake Tahoe game.
Things I like
- The Carolina Hurricanes are the hottest team in the NHL. Winners of eleven in a row, they almost had a perfect month in December. They went 12-1, only losing to the Anaheim Ducks in overtime. It's odd when you lose to one of the worst, but that's why they play the games. They posted back-to-back shutout wins over the Chicago Blackhawks and Florida Panthers, only allowing 19 Panthers' shots. Even though they've been trending upward the last few seasons, I'm surprised they're doing this well. Usually, a heartbreaking defeat in a game 7 carries over into the following season and creates a slow start. It seems to have motivated them instead. But the Hurricanes aren't without problems. They're only 20th in the NHL in scoring, and they have too many goalies with no clear-cut number one. Frederik Andersen will be coming back soon, but he wasn't exactly tearing it up. Pyotr Kochetkov is only 23, but they picked him in the second round, he's posted the best numbers and has the most upside. That'll sort itself out eventually, but I highly doubt Andersen will tear it up on his return. Max Pacioretty is also set to return, which should help with scoring, but he hasn't played yet this season. The Hurricanes got a little help from the New Jersey Devils to win their eleventh (see below).
Things I don't
- JT Miller is making headlines for the wrong reasons. Against the Winnipeg Jets, he was annoyed Collin Delia didn't leave the net when they had the puck in their own zone in the final minute. Most goalies don't leave until they've established possession in the attacking zone. I've seen a few leave when their teammate has the puck behind their net, but it's rare. In this case, the Vancouver Canucks had several chances to bring the puck up, but they were too busy wasting twenty seconds waiting for him to leave the net. The Jets scored an empty net goal about 15 seconds later. I can't help but think if they had worried less about the goalie and established zone presence, it might have turned out differently. Something they should practice along with trying to improve their still dead-last penalty kill.
Fight of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Yakov Trenin vs Brayden McNabb
A fairly decent back-and-forth.
Goats of the Week
Vladimir Tarasenko - St. Louis Blues
I'm not sure what Vladimir Tarasenko is doing. William Nylander baited him, and he took the bait, and then Nylander out-muscled him and took it the other way for the overtime goal.
Mackenzie Blackwood - New Jersey Devils
There are two types of goalies. Those that are good at stick-handling and those that are not. I was not. But I was great when I didn't play goalie. It's just all that gear is quite a hindrance. Mackenzie Blackwood falls into the not category. Unless he just majorly whiffed. The Devils lost in the shootout.
Stat Line of the Week
12/31/22 Buffalo 4 vs. Boston 3
Alex Tuch is a bit underrated. Although, if you're taken in the first round, you're probably expected to score more than 20 goals in a season, so maybe he's rated just fine. He's on pace for career highs in everything. Against the Boston Bruins, Tuch scored two goals and two assists, including the overtime goal. The takeaway and pass by Dylan Cozens and the goal by Tuch were all beautiful.
This was the first non-shootout loss at home for the Bruins. They're still undefeated in regulation, though. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep that up. They're halfway there.
5 – Unanswered goals by the Detroit Red Wings for the comeback overtime win after four unanswered goals by the Penguins in the first period
3 – Goals by the Edmonton Oilers in 1:11 against the Seattle Kraken
72 – Points for Connor McDavid, 15 ahead of his injured teammate Leon Draisaitl
2 – Players in Florida Panthers' history have scored a hat trick and two assists in a game. Jonathan Huberdeau two years ago, and now Aleksander Barkov against the Montreal Canadiens.
17 – Penalty minutes for Brendan Gallagher against the Florida Panthers in one fight
15 – Penalty minutes for his sparring partner Brandon Montour
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
- Tampa Bay
- San Jose