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Throughout the Winter Classic’s history, the matchups have been consistently intriguing. The teams have always been serious playoff contenders (excluding the 2008 Sabres), twice have two Winter Classic teams met in the playoffs the same year, a Winter Classic team has gone on to reach the Stanley Cup finals in the same year twice, and the game always consists of two well-established rivals competing for pride in front of large hometown crowds.
Prior to Tuesday, the New York Rangers led the Philadelphia Flyers by just two points in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division, and had the game not been held outdoors, this regular season clash would still have significant postseason implications.
The Flyers and Rangers matchup had all the makings of an amazing Winter Classic, however, the first half of the game lacked the excitement and unpredictability of past outdoor games.
Both teams initially showed little offensive aggression, perhaps from the nerves of being watched by huge a national audience or from playing on a particularly slicker surface than they are used to. Strong stick checking from both teams kept the early scoring chances limited, however, the Rangers goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, did have some nice early stops.
Flyers star forward Claude Giroux had a good scoring chance early in the first period, but Lundqvist made a lunging stick save to keep the game tied at zero. Sergei Bobrovski, who replaced the slumping, first-string Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov, did not have many saves to make early on, instead benefiting from the Flyers defense blocking several shots and getting lucky with several Rangers shots sailing wide of the net or clanging off the crossbar.
At the halfway point the game was still scoreless and sorely lacking in drama. But that was until Brandon Schenn, who until this point had played in only a handful of NHL games, won an offensive zone faceoff and slid the puck to the left point. Flyers defensemen Matt Carle flung the puck toward the net, which was stopped by Lundqvist but not recovered. Schenn chipped the juicy rebound into an open net for his first NHL goal.
The momentum would clearly be with the Flyers the rest of the game unless the Rangers came back quickly with some offensive confidence. Less than a half a minute later, they would do just that as Michael Rupp flung the puck to the right of Bobrovski and into the goal, aided by Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros, who unintentionally screened the goaltender on the play.
It took less than three minutes in the third period for the Rangers to get their equalizer goal on a lazy reaction from Bobrovski. Michael Rupp skated past the left circle and found the net on a narrow angle shot to the short side of the goaltender. A quicker Bobrovski reaction would have made it an easy blocker save rather than a soft goal.
It took another three minutes for the Rangers to respond and regain the lead. Captain Ryan Callahan was alone behind the net where he fed a pass to Brandon Dubinsky. He made a few jabs at the net and the puck dribbled loose to Brad Richards, who poked it into the net. The Rangers had come back from a two-goal deficit and only needed to hold Philadelphia scoreless for fourteen more minutes to secure the first NHL victory of 2012.
The most thrilling drama happened in the last 30 seconds of the game. A loose puck was once again being whacked around in front of the net when it slipped behind Lundqvist. There were two Flyers nearby who could have easily tapped it in, however, Rangers defensemen Ryan McDonagh smothered the puck with his arm, resulting in a Flyers penalty shot. Daniel Briere, a solid all-around Center who had limited breakaway and shootout experience, would be taking the penalty shot. He drove hard directly toward the goal, and attempted a shot through Lundqvist’s legs. The goaltender easily pushed the ill-conceived shot aside.
The Rangers would on hold for the last 20 seconds and claim victory to the fifth annual Winter Classic. It will be easy for anyone to say that Briere blew a chance at taking the game to overtime, but the Flyers had a many chances late in the game to tie things up. And had it not been for the soft Mike Rupp goal on Bobrovski, the teams probably would have been tied when regulation ended.
There have been some incredible endings to some Winter Classics in the past, and while this year was not the most dramatic, it was certainly entertaining. The game still had the unpredictability, drama and aggressive play that you would expect from two huge rivals on such an occasion. Time will tell whether this game will have an effect on the playoff standings, but what is certain is that the Classic has a strange way of mixing sentiment, nostalgia, and great hockey.
Words: Chris Williams
Work erections are the worst. They don’t look good in khakis, they cause more questions than intercourse and they’re slightly unprofessional.
So after (finally) viewing the Fenway threesome I was relieved to see it was a lot tamer then the garbage (a byproduct of growing up with the internet) I assumed it would be.
Despite its lack of arousal, it’s still a threesome in the beer-soaked cathedral of Boston, all decked out in ’90s glory. It may be vaguely inappropriate for work, but the girl to guy ratio is right, the upper deck seems sufficiently trashed, and you gotta love that the cameraman actually thought about going back to the game for a second. I also love that this went viral only a few months ago, and some spouse or relative got to see the “younger” side of a loved one. Check it out here:
Another disco ball is poised to smash into the New Year, and winter will soon stand alone as the holidays melt away. It’s equally depressing and exciting, but there’s still time to get drunk and reflect on everything that’s swirled around the sports world this year.
And so, drunk, I reflect: Where was I when the NBA tipped off the playoffs with Osama’s head? How did I feel when Quentin Tarantino’s foot fetish was confirmed? Do I remember watching Shrek make that flawless bicycle kick against Manchester City? Did Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit really kill Amy Winehouse? Was the NBA lockout responsible for lowering America’s credit rating from AAA to AA+? Was Einstein tebowing in the afterlife after scientists found out that things can actually move faster than the speed of light? Did Rahm Emanuel really celebrate his inauguration by pranking Carlos Zambrano into thinking that the Snuggie had replaced the Cubs usual uniforms?
The year was littered with loads of crap like that (and way too many stories of abuse), but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a few gems out there too.
My favorite moment of the year was one that I didn’t even see live, but I still remember it more clearly than any epic tennis match, Bears loss, or ESPN embarrassment.
I was in a foreign country dealing with poor satellite signals, spotty electricity, and supposedly toxic beer. I was living off chai tea and cheap dumplings, and playing basketball on a worn court that was slick with sand and surrounded by monkeys and dirty, feral dogs. I was alone, and I quickly found that the best way to meet people was through hoops and pick-up games.
Although English was more random than consistent, hoops was still a way to make a connection, and I spent the summer meeting players and hoops fans from different parts of the globe.
It was on the court that I learned that the Mavericks and Heat series was being broadcast live in the predawn hours of the morning.
So early one morning, when the parrots where still migrating and the rainy season was still a few weeks off, a collection of drunks, ballers and NBA lovers found their way to my hotel.
Although my room was large, its sparse decorations made it seem more like a painted cave. A frayed tapestry was one of the few fineries in the place, and a cardboard box held the small television that all of us crowded around. The room might have been somewhat dank, but that morning it was alive with cheers, bottles and playoff basketball.
It was around halftime when the room went quiet though. It was a noticeable and sudden change, but it wasn’t the game that muzzled the noise, or even an upset neighbor, but Derrick Rose’s MVP speech. The clip of his speech held everyone’s attention, and it even seemed to sober a few people up.
The speech was everything you’d want to hear from a superstar player. He was humble, courteous, and evocative. It was a simple and beautiful speech, and it capped a great season from Rose.
So despite nationalities and varying proficiencies in English, Rose’s achievement was something that everyone stopped to appreciate. That, and a Heat loss.
Germany has slyly decided to infiltrate our country through implanted robotic blood cells. The new “therapy” replaces janky, worn-out pieces of cartilage with “modified” robotic cells that march in high step and communicate only through screams, intellectual musings, and krautrock. The experimental procedure is called Othokine, and it’s being used on America’s prominent, aging athletes. Kobe Bryant has had the procedure done twice and now Alex Rodriguez has been seen sneaking around Midtown wearing a bear-skinned cloak and preaching about governmental health care.
Rodriguez, who batted only .111 in the Yankees postseason loss to the Tigers, says that he feels “Very proud,” post surgery. And that his new “Hasselhoff” mindset has increased his appetite for shirtless nights of drinking, disco dancing, and penis pumps.
The procedure is banned in America, but reports say that the key to the new therapy is using isolated proteins that are drawn from a patient’s blood. Those proteins are then forced to watch Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will repeatedly while the sounds of blonde sex-making blasts through a series of sliver-plated speakers.
Athletes swear by the results, and report quicker reflexes, stronger and more flexible joints and bluer eyes. Rumors are even surfacing that the Michael Jordan has undergone the transfusion as well, but those are rumors centered on fashion preferences and not fact.
I, for one, welcome our new German scientist overlords, and can’t wait for the Dirkification of American sports.