|Not only was this game a classic, but it was an experiment that has to be considered an overwhelming success.|
An Instant Classic -- During my commute to New York City on Tuesday afternoon, I came across a column regarding the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic in Buffalo.
The gist of the story was the game didn’t have the right to be dubbed a “Classic” since it was the first of its kind in the United States. After what transpired at Ralph Wilson Stadium, I wonder how that writer feels now.
In front of a League-record crowd of 71,217, perhaps it was only fitting that the face of the NHL -- Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby -- netted the game-winner in the Penguins’ 2-1 shootout victory against the host Buffalo Sabres.
Not only was this game a classic, but it was an experiment that has to be considered an overwhelming success, and one that will more than likely spark interest from other teams around the League regarding participation in future Winter Classics.
"Based on the response, on our ability to execute, and the inquiries we're getting from other clubs for similar activities, this obviously is something we're going to look at again," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff made no bones about wanting to see his team take part in such an event again. Given the conditions necessary to have an outdoor game, Buffalo certainly has a leg up on some other teams.
I mean, let’s face it, we won’t see the Kings and Ducks playing at the Rose Bowl anytime soon.
"I'd love to do it again. I thought it was awesome," Ruff said. "It was good for the game. It may not be the best hockey game because of the situation, because of the weather, because of the snow, but the atmosphere was incredible."
Indeed it was. Sure, Sabres fans were disappointed that their team came out on the losing end. But nobody can dispute the fact that at the end of the day, the Penguins, the Sabres, the city of Buffalo and this great sport of ours were all winners.
"When you see 70,000 people packed into a stadium to watch hockey, that's usually a good sign," Crosby said.
For reasons more inexplicable than the cancellation of ALF, the Caps continue to find ways to beat the best team in the Eastern Conference. Just three days after they notched an 8-6 win at Scotiabank Place, the Caps scored four times in the first period en route to a 6-3 victory against the Sens at the Verizon Center.
With the win, Washington improved to 3-0 on the season against Ottawa. Sens goalie Martin Gerber, who was yanked 7:34 into Tuesday’s game, has allowed 10 goals on 37 shots against the Caps.
”You can tell they feel confident playing us,” Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said. “I mean, you see them playing tonight, you'd think they would be at the top of the standings.”
Congratulations to Olaf Kolzig, who moved into 25th place on the NHL’s all-time win list. Tuesday’s victory was No. 289 of Kolzig’s career.
New Year, New Result -- It took a flip of the calendar for the Toronto Maple Leafs to get a different outcome in the shootout.
After dropping their first three shootout decisions this season, the Leafs received some solid goaltending from Scott Clemmensen and a pair of goals from Tomas Kaberle and Mats Sundin as 2008 provided a change of luck as Toronto earned a 4-3 win against Tampa Bay.
It was Clemmensen’s first start of the season, as Paul Maurice decided to give the 30-year-old the nod over Andrew Raycroft, who allowed 10 goals over the last two games. Vesa Toskala is currently out with a groin injury.
The last time Clemmensen was in a shootout? Leafs fans certainly remember that day all too well. It was that Sunday afternoon in April at Continental Airlines Arena, when Clemmensen, playing for the Devils, lost to the Islanders, which sent the latter -- rather than Toronto -- to the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
”It's unbelievable,” Clemmensen said. “It's a shootout win about six months too late, but we got it. I know that Leafs fans were rooting for me at the end of last year and I hope that they'll continue to root for me now that I'm actually wearing the sweater.”
Tuesday night certainly was the start of the healing process.
Getting It Together -- Not much has gone right for the Los Angeles Kings in the first half of the season. But if L.A. can put together some more wins like Tuesday night’s 9-2 demolition of the Chicago Blackhawks, 2008 will be a heck of a lot more enjoyable.
Games like the one L.A. just played will certainly help Kings’ fans forget that eight-game losing streak, no?
“At the end of that eight-game losing streak, we were actually playing pretty good hockey,” Kings defenseman Tom Preissing said. “Maybe we weren’t getting a bounce here or there. Now, things are rolling, at least a little bit.”
One thing is certain: The Blackhawks will be glad about not having to play the Kings again until Feb. 23. Tuesday was the second of back-to-back losses to Los Angeles, with the first defeat ending Chicago’s four-game winning streak.
That sound you hear is several Blackhawk players deleting Randy Newman’s I Love L.A. from their iPods.
Brian Compton can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.