When a should-be primetime event is set for midday, nature finds a way. After the move from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern due to rain in Pittsburgh, the NHL Winter Classic, and the Caps, delivered in many ways.
After some time to digest the event and the 3-1 victory, here are my ten quick takeaways, followed by some questions for you, fellow DelMarVans and beyond:
- Relief. There was so much pressure and marketing put into this game, the stakes felt very high. It’s a long regular season and an even longer road to the playoffs. You hate for so much to hinge on a game that happens in January. Even if the Caps had lost, as cool as this was, I’d be glad it’s over and the team can refocus on racking up points and getting prepared for the Second Season.
- Fehr Game. If I had to rank my “unlikely heroes” from the Caps’ 12 forwards dressed for the game, only Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks would rank ahead of Eric Fehr. The physical forward’s two goals, one a “right place, right time” job and the other a deft wrister on a breakaway, put the previously anonymous Canadian on Twitter’s worldwide trending topics. Congrats to Fehr, who, as the third episode of HBO’s “24/7” showed, is also a pretty decent dude off the ice.
- Speaking of “24/7″…Cannot. Wait. For. This. Episode. Sad it will be the last, but as good as the third one was, it was a bummer knowing it would end with the Caps’ shootout loss two days before Christmas. I cannot reiterate enough how enthralling this series is, even if you’re a casual fan.
- Net Gain. I haven’t really searched if Bruce Boudreau gave his reasoning for tapping Varly for the national spotlight game, but it worked. Neuvirth played well against the Pens last week, so it could’ve gone either way. Shows promise for the athletic Russian goaltender if he gets the sweater for a Game 7 this spring.
- Warm, Wet and Wild. In addition to the late start, the weather seemed to affect the way they game looked on TV more than it did the players. Don’t recall any egregious slips or falls you wouldn’t see normally in an NHL game. If anyone was affected, it seemed to be Fleury. The ice looked sort of glossy and gray, especially with the stadium lights. That’s one of the benefits of a daytime game, you get the pristine white sheet.
- I Can’t NBSee the Game. I’m not an expert on broadcast production, just the end consumer. The direction and camera angles sucked. An infuriating way to watch a game you’re interested in. They were on blimp view for the second goal! Blimp view! Also Mike Milbury loves baiting Caps fans just a little too much. Also, whoever thought it would be good television for Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris shoot pucks for six minutes into empty nets 20 feet away should been punched in the brain by John Erskine.
- “[Hackneyed Anchorman Joke I Refuse To Use], Pittsburgh.” I don’t know if anyone can actually prove it was the Pens who left the ice without shaking hands, but that seems to be the prevailing sentiment. Also got some reports via Twitter that not-so-nice things were being shouted at women and kids in Caps jerseys at Heinz Field. To that, I say this.
- Ovi’s (Non-)Goal. Yes, you can’t dance with the goalie behind the net. But that had zero to do with the eventual goal-scoring play. Karmically, the call was totally right in disallowing the goal, but if he did something illegal, the goalie recovered, then he scored on a new section of the play, why didn’t you call the penalty in the first place? This is what’s infuriating about NHL officiating sometimes. They seem far more interested in spirit of the law than letter of the law – which is not a good thing if you’re a freaking referee.
- Crosby Gets Stecked. I’m the rare Caps fan who doesn’t loathe Crosby to the point of paying $200 at the NHL shop for something like this. He’s a world-class player and seems to be less of a jerk away from the ice than your average player. Still, and this is why I will never fully embrace LeBron James, he does whine a lot. When Dave Steckel clipped him, at the end of the second period, it was purely incidental. “Northbound in the Southbound lane,” as my NHL 11 game would say. Steckel is possibly the best faceoff man in the game, and while he’s a big, physical player, he’s far from a cheapshot artist. A similar incident happened a month ago, when he accidentally kneed Tobias Enstrom (and had to subsequently fight). Crosby usually plays well with a chip on his shoulder, but he couldn’t summon any payback for the hit in the third period, save a few tough-guy words at the end of the game.
- Classic 2.0? Next year’s Classic won’t be in the D.C. area, but the NHL has indicated that the year after’s might, or the year after that’s. While it would be cool to go to one of those things in person, I’m not sure I’d invite the pressure for just a regular season game. After the Pens kind of grimaced off the ice, I realized that their city and fans had been pouring their hopes for months into a great showing at this game, and that the players were obviously more disappointed than your average loss. Plus, I don’t want to go to RFK Stadium, ever. I’d be fine with Nationals Stadium, I suppose. There has also been talk of holding the game at M&T Bank. I don’t want that to happen because, well, the Caps are primarily D.C./NoVa’s team. Also, I don’t want Caps fans to say a bunch of bad stuff about Baltimore. I’m very defensive of my city.
Did you watch the game? What were your impressions? Would you go if the Caps hosted one in D.C.? What about Baltimore? Are you more likely to follow the Caps the rest of the year (especially with more national T.V. in the second half) after the Winter Classic?