Some random observations following the Red Wings’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2014 Winter Classic:
- The ice. By all accounts, the folks who were in charge of the ice surface did a great job. It didn’t hurt that the temps were so frigid, but it’s not an easy task, no matter what. I saw very few instances where the ice quality played any role in the game itself.
- The snow. Kudos to the kids with the shovels. They did a great job as well. It snowed all day and once again, the snow wasn’t as much of a factor as it could have been. The one time where it was a factor—on Tomas Tatar’s shootout attempt—was more Tatar’s fault than anything. He stickhandled too much.
- The officiating. They got all the crucial calls right—including the Leafs’ second goal, when Tyler Bozak’s stick was correctly ruled not too high when he deflected Dion Phaneuf’s shot past Jimmy Howard. There were no ticky-tack calls and the linesmen did a good job on offsides and icing calls, impressive given the snow on the ice all day.
- Goaltending. Jonathan Bernier outplayed Howard, but the latter wasn’t bad—except in the shootout, sadly. After Joffrey Lupul went 5-hole in the shootout, Bozak didn’t try any dekes and just fired the puck along the ice past Howard for the game-winner.
- The Red Wings. I thought they actually played a pretty good game, the result be damned. They crashed the net, were strong on the puck and their defensemen displayed some smart sticks in their own zone. Frankly, both of Toronto’s regulation goals were of the fluky variety—both knocked from the air past Howard.
- Mike Babcock. He had his boys ready to play. It was another shootout loss but it was a point gotten when the team was trailing with less than six minutes to play.
- The Broadcast. Another strong effort here, although sometimes NBC was caught showing off all its cameras needlessly. Mike Emrick mentioned that NBC had 82 cameras on site. But for the most part, the director kept it simple, which is what you should do when covering hockey. (I used to direct sports on TV, so I pay attention to this more than most).
- The Rink. It’s funny how small the ice surface looks on television in an outdoor setting. When you watch a normal, indoors game on TV, the rink looks much bigger than when you’re watching a game played outdoors. As Norm Crosby might say, it was an “optical conclusion.”