Knee-jerks & Notes: New Years Fun Indoors and Out

We followed two big games on Tuesday.
Outdoors:

  • NBC opened its broadcast with Peter Gabriel’s instrumental “It Is Accomplished” from the Passion soundtrack–an excellent choice on many levels. Then the network returned to predictable form with Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice.” At least the network didn’t play “Ice Ice Baby.”
  • There was an awful lot of smiling players’ faces on the benches in camera close-ups immediately before the game. Of course all of them were going to be diplomatic and supportive of the event in the lead-up, but in the moment, this display of enthusiasm sure seemed authentic and organic and evocative of the heart of the matter.
  • The snowballing of the Pittsburgh team bus arriving at the Ralph — executed by hordes of Sabres’ fans — argued well for continuing this event in the future.
  • Outdoor GameIt would be easy to pan the event on the basis of the inclimate conditions — visibility was generally poor for players, spectators, and home viewers; trainers and players dealt with a litany of equipment challenges; Zambonis were on the ice as frequently as fourth-liners; and league Ice Tech Dan Craig may as well have been in the game program as often as he was on the ice. But our sense is that the event’s overall atmosphere earned the game’s first star, and that the league scored an overtime game-winner with this idea and its general execution. The overall effect was one of a compelling Season’s Greeting showcasing sports’ most under appreciated athletes in their embrace of winter’s elements.
  • In a very real sense this was a maiden run in terms of the league establishing outdoor ice quality. Buffalo’s football field is pitched at nine degrees! There was never going to be an issue with ice quality in Edmonton for the Heritage Classic in 2003 — Alberta skies were clear that night, and temps were below that of Cryogenics. The league will learn a lot from Tuesday afternoon in Buffalo, and apply lessons learned to any future outdoor engagements.
  • You’re a liar if you thought in the third period, while he skated on a sheet of snow, sleet, and patched-up makeshift ice, Sergei Give-it-away-when-and-where-it-hurts-most Gonchar would escape the tied game unscathed. By Divine Intervention he did, but no sane human being would have predicted it.
  • Some fantastic hitting, in corners and in open ice, and NBC cameras captured it superbly. Hockey played outdoors in snow with hatred and heavy hitting between the teams, in high definition: four unfiltered Marlboros for the OFB team, please.
  • There is something special to Kris Letang and shootouts. He actually lost control of the puck twice while bearing down on Ryan Miller and still managed to beat him.
  • Fitting that Sidney Crosby ended the game. He was its best player.
  • The NHL’s All-Star Game continues to suffer from both an identity crisis and any sense of relevance/importance. What about taking it outdoors, and perhaps even marrying it to a regular season game between a rotation of two teams each year? Make a Winter Weekend of it all.
  • The Commish, afterward: “This obviously is something we’re going to look at doing again. This is the type of event we certainly will be looking at doing in the future.” Think the league might be pleased with the results? A color photo of celebrating Pens appears on A1 of today’s New York Times.

Indoors:

  • Question for the New York Post’s Larry Brooks and the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, both of whom recently have opined that Alexander Ovechkin shouldn’t bother negotiating a new deal with the Caps and instead move on via restricted free agency to a “real” hockey market: one such market can’t be Ottawa, right, seeing as how the Sens are futile in all attempts to defeat the Caps?
  • Ovechkin on the FaceoffSpeaking of MSM, WUSA’s Brett Haber has the title of Sports Director. He labors in Washington, D.C. It would be charitable to say that he is seldom seen in the press lounge of Verizon Center. It would be understandable by Washington MSM standards were he to have ignored hockey on his New Years Day evening sportscast and instead directed all his energy at the playoff-bound Redskins. That’s par for the course in these parts. Instead he man-loved Sir Sidney to no end, calling him the best player in hockey. We won’t call this an egregious offense but rather one of breathtaking tone deafness; in legitimate sports towns in which there is a lead athlete credibly creating dispute about such a point, the hometown athlete typically earns the decision.
  • Ottawa played a shockingly undisciplined game fueled by out-of-control emotion in the determinative first period. A novice fan making his or her first-ever visit to an NHL game at Verizon Center yesterday, pressed to identify what team had spent the entirety of this decade in the NHL postseason, and winning about 70 percent of its games the past eight years, and what one hung up the gear more or less every April, would have guessed Ottawa the golfers and the Caps the savvy vets.
  • Martin Gerber may not be the Sens’ solution to confidence-inspiring, trustworthy, big-stop-when-you-most-need-it postseason netminding.
  • The Mike Green Express — an Amtrak Acela toward what should be an All Star selection. He’s still remarkably young, still prone to the occasional error borne of limited big-league experience, but he’s a jewel of his draft class and a lynchpin of Caps’ playoff teams for years to come.
  • Little noted but imperative: Ovechkin had to execute some magical footwork to remain onside on Mike Green’s end-to-end virtuoso tally.
  • Serious sigh of relief: the Caps got off the O-fer collar with 5-on-3 man-advantages.
  • Think about how formidable the five-game stretch that began in Pittsburgh on December 27 looked and consider where the Caps are now: 5 of a possible 6 points earned, with beatable Boston up next.
  • It’s frigid outside in Washington, D.C., early in 2008 and the city’s hockey team is hot. Expect your other-sports loving friends this week — even a few donned in burgundy and gold — to begin leaning against AO’s @ss-Kicking Express, eying empty seats within. Welcome their interest. We don’t know yet if the proverbial corner has been turned for this hockey team, but right now it feels very hockey healthy in Washington, and it feels wonderful.

Must reading:
** “Best in Snow,” Ross McKeon, Yahoo!Sports **
** “A Thrilling Snowball Effect,” Kevin Paul Dupont, Boston Globe
** “Ice Bowl Is One for the Ages, with NHL Record Crowd,” John Bonfatti and Gene Warner, Buffalo News
** “Want the ultimate outdoor rink? Dan Craig makes it so,” Scott Burnside, ESPN.com

This entry was posted in Brooks Laich, Buffalo Sabres, Gary Bettman, Knee-Jerk, National Hockey League. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Knee-jerks & Notes: New Years Fun Indoors and Out

  1. Gustafsson says:

    I find games against the Canadian cities a treat as we get to enjoy both the American and Canadian anthems. Yesterday, I felt embarrassed for the Capitals and especially for the singer, who on several occasions, referred to the lyrics of “O Canada” which was written on her left palm.
    I expected her to glance at her right palm during the singing of
    the “Star Spangled Banner”.

  2. OrderedChaos says:

    Another point regarding the Capitals’ victory: check out the shot-location chart on ESPN from the game. A majority of the Caps’ shots are clustered up close, in the slot (unlike Ottawa’s). I suspect Coach Boudreau will be emphasizing that smart shot selection and crashing the net for rebounds, something the team is historically uneven in doing, strongly contributed to these two dominant victories.
    http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/shotchart?gameId=280101023

  3. Gustafsson says:

    What’s also nice about that shot chart is the up to date bio pictures of the players! 😉

  4. TG says:

    My biggest problem from NBC’s telecast, aside from not being able to see what was going on due to the snow, was the absolute fawning over Crosby. Everything he did was “amazing”, “fun to watch”, “impressive.” Good Lord! Go and get a room already!
    Of course, I knew it was going to be something like that when Doc Emerick, normally a good broadcaster, started out with, “Some of you may not have seen Crosby play before. In that case, you’re in for a real treat today…”

  5. Strikeman says:

    Personally I think Emrick is annoying I usually cant stand listening to one of his broadcast, that why I love the mute button. Hopefully in the future we can get multiple audio streams to choose from, id love to just hear the sounds of the game.
    And If that wasnt a fixed game then i dont know what is, a nationally televised game going to the shootout and crosboy wins it….cmon. The NHL headline said somethign about a perfect ending, uh hello wouldn’t it be a perfect ending if the home team won???
    OV is a better personality than crosboy will ever be.

  6. Kim says:

    I am surprised there has not been more of an uproar over the National Anthem (or more accurately the lack there of) at the Winter Classic. Since when do we sing the Canadian Anthem at games with two US teams and God Bless America vs. the Star Spangled Banner? Maybe I am being petty, but I believe it is disrespectful to not sing the National Anthem of the host country on a nationally televised game of that importance.
    Also got tired of all of the Sidney Crosby lust from the announcers.

  7. Zack says:

    A little bit off topic but…can you guys confirm or refute this rumor?
    http://www.fannation.com/truth_and_rumors/view/31756

  8. Zach,
    We think it’s more important to confirm that the Caps are negotiating with Alex. We have limited info about the give and take involved, and to date no sense if a deal is to be achieved sooner rather than later.

  9. Victor says:

    Betcha The Toronto Sun & FanNation got that info from Eklund.

  10. Capsaholic says:

    Did I mention, that outdoor game was FAKE? Loved the snow, though.

  11. Jordan says:

    Writers on this site sure do go out of their way to pan Gonchar at every turn, I’ve noticed. Was his exit from the Caps on bad terms or something?

  12. OrderedChaos says:

    Re: Gonchar, y’know, I always thought he was the best winger playing D in the league… if only the Caps had enough defensive depth at the time to play him at wing I’d probably have liked him more. But Gonchar had a penchant for horrible defensive gaffes at the worst times (I remember in particular when he tripped over the blue line, leading to a breakaway game-clinching goal in the playoffs).

  13. Jordan: Out of 1,088 OFB files, care to make a wager on how many mention Gonchar?

  14. Thunderweenie says:

    1) OUCH! All the Ottawa comments! I’m so hurt! Oy, vey!
    The season finale between our two teams is next week, my DC friends, so keep yer jerseys on for the moment. (For the record, though, I do agree on Gerber–although I suspect that OrderedChaos may have spiked his water bottle…)
    2) Re. the outdoor game: all I can say is: thank God I could watch it on the CBC and not have to listen to NBC’s Sidney love-fest (or at least listen to a slightly toned-down version of it).
    But since we’re on the subject…am I the only one who finds the whole outdoor thing kinda…well, kinda fake and gimmicky? Just askin’.
    3) Canada V USA at the World Juniors on Friday, baby!!!! I wanna hear O Canada sung in CZECH!!! WHOOO!!!! 🙂

  15. jdug says:

    Heres to the flood gates opening just a bit for Kozlov. Thank goodness Backstrom did not get it to him any sooner, he would have put it over the cross bar for sure.

  16. dmg says:

    If the outdoor game was fake they either have really good (waterproof) robots or really good animators.

  17. Thunderweenie says:

    The fake outdoor hockey game, brought to you by Moon Landing Productions!

  18. chanuck says:

    I didn’t watch the game, but in regards to the singing of the Canadian national anthem. I have heard that Buffalo plays it at every home game. No matter who they are playing.

  19. SpartyCuse says:

    Thats correct. Because Buffalo draws a lot of fans from Canada, and their proximity to the border, they play O Canada at every game.

  20. Thunderweenie says:

    Yes, that is correct re O Canada in Buffalo. You can hear lots of “oots” and “aboots” at the HSBC on any given night. 🙂
    Just out of curiosity, does anyone know if they sing O Canada in Detroit, too? I’ve never been to a game at the Joe, and I know that Detroit and Buffalo are different cities with VERY different hockey histories and traditions. However, I also know that there’s a cross-border culture in Windsor-Detroit much like there is in Buffalo-Niagara, where people hop back and forth for activities like this all the time. Anyone know?
    Thanks for indulging the off-topic question, folks. Cheers!

  21. PenaltyBox says:

    I was shocked ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù and thrilled ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù to see such a high Nielsen rating for the Winter Classic, second only to a Fox broadcast some 12 years ago !
    Strikes me that this could make for yet another wakeup call for the NHL. People watched ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù and kept watching ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù because of the return to roots (read: the romance and simplicity of pond hockey)
    If only the NHL could REALLY clamp down on clutching and grabbing, the Devils-style neutral zone trap, and deliver the kind of romance and simplicity of bigger-ice hockey that we get at the Olympics and the World Championships ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù instead of the bandbox game in which six-foot-six defenders with sticks just about as long keep their smoother skating colleagues on the sidelines.
    Then, and only then ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù when the NHL introduces international size ice sheets ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù will we see these kinds of ratings for Stanley Cup playoff games.

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