The NHL Winter Classic has become a holiday tradition for hockey fans far and wide to ring in the New Year. Since its inception on January 1, 2008, the Winter Classic has grown into the National Hockey League’s biggest event of the year. There is something about watching the game of hockey played outdoors in its original element that ignites the passion in every fan and in all of the players.
This year’s match-up featured the sport’s two oldest rivals as the Boston Bruins hosted the Montréal Canadiens. This game marked the 910th meeting between these two fierce competitors, held outdoors in front of 70,000 people at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Let’s not forget what was on the line for today’s game, with the entire hockey world watching as first place in the Atlantic Division was up for grabs. It’s possible this was the most important outdoor game yet because of its relevance to the current standings… This is especially true considering the Montréal Canadiens endured one of the worst December’s in franchise history, going 3-11 in the month after getting off to an incredible 9-0 start at the beginning of the season. The Bruins’ story, on the other hand, has been quite the opposite; the team got off to a very slow start but has regained some momentum, winning the last five games in November and seven games in December.
But all of that is in the past now… The Montréal Canadiens started 2016 with a bang, dominating the Boston Bruins in Friday’s Winter Classic. Montréal forward Brendan Gallagher had a goal and an assist in his first game since sustaining a hand injury Nov. 22. We all know how important Gallagher is to this team; he is the spark plug. Montréal looked markedly different with Gallagher in the lineup as the Canadiens defeated Boston by a final score of 5-1.
Montréal played an even stronger game than the score indicates, however; Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made some incredible stops, keeping the Bruins in the game despite all of the Canadiens’ prime scoring chances. The Bruins were down 3-0 in the third period before tallying the team’s first (and only) goal of the game, a deflection by Matt Beleskey. It seemed as if the ice was shifting, as the Bruins’ offense was generating chance after chance and testing Canadiens goalie Mike Condon like the team had not done through the first 40 minutes of regulation. But once Max Pacioretty scored on a 2-on-1 with Gallagher to make it 4-1, Boston’s momentum seemingly vanished.
Montréal played an excellent team game, with every player contributing. Even fourth-liner Paul Byron chipped in two goals in the effort. The Canadiens got five goals from four different players, six points from a top line that was together for the first time in 18 games, and 27 saves from goalie Mike Condon. It was great to see Condon, a local Massachusetts kid, earn the victory today. This will be a career highlight for Condon without a doubt.
The Boston Bruins dearly missed injured center David Krejci and suspended left wing Brad Marchand. The Bruins’ top-ranked power play went 0-for-3.
Boston sports fans are not used to leaving Gillette Stadium disappointed, as it is a place where the NFL’s New England Patriots have dominated for years. Strangely, home teams have only won 4 out of 15 outdoor events put on by the NHL. However, Boston earned one of those four wins by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 Winter Classic, held at Fenway Park in Boston. Despite having the home teaming lose in such a crushing manner, today’s game was still an incredible spectacle for the sport.
The Montréal Canadiens put on quite an impressive performance with a dominant win in the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. The team also earned two very important points, putting the Canadiens back on top in the Atlantic Division. With the return of Gallagher and such a dominant win against their biggest rival on such a big stage, this game could easily be a turning point in Montréal’s season.
Featured Image via canadiens.nhl.com