The now-annual outdoor spectacle for the NHL didn't disappoint this year, unless you were hoping for an 8-7 kind of game, then you might have been disappointed. It appeared to be a beautiful day in Philadelphia, heading into the early evening, making for an excellent setting for the Winter Classic. The ice needed some repairs through the game, but it really didn't disrupt the flow too much, as the TV coverage did well to manage those minor stoppages and the game went ahead with little issue.
Probably the best story for the game coming in was the surprise return of Marc Staal to the line-up, which was announced only a few hours before the game got started by the Rangers coaching staff. Wes M., if he was watching today, was probably quite pleased with this news, as he has been sitting on Staal since the draft at the start of the year, wondering when he'll actually be ready, if he was going to play at all.
The 1st period was all Philadelphia, winning most of the faceoffs, keeping the most possession of the puck and pushing the most in the offensive zone, but the home team had nothing to show for it after a quick opening frame. There was some general concern as the period came to a close, as Jaromir Jagr struggled back to the clubhouse and was not seen on the ice, except before the 2nd and 3rd periods started, testing what appeared to be a groin injury.
In the 2nd period, the play started very much as the 1st had been played out, with a lot more Flyers pressure, but the Rangers were working their way into the heads of the Flyers more and more, especially with Jagr already out of the game. Still, the Flyers kept pouring it on, doing all the right things and Brayden Schenn was able to open the scoring on a good faceoff play, where a rebound from a point shot was converted by the youngster for his 1st goal of his NHL career.
The Flyers struck a second time, shortly after, when Claude Giroux converted a 2-on-1 play with Maxime Talbot to make the score 2-0 and the hometown crowd was having the time of their lives, up on the hated rivals in a spectacle of this magnitude.
Not more than 30 seconds later, Mike Rupp turns a transition play with his fourth line teammates into a pretty looking goal to cut the lead in half and give the Flyers something to think about. The play was dominated by the Flyers leading up to the goal and it was a shock to the system when the Rangers potted one from an unlikely source.
The 2nd period finished with some good feeling to it, the skating continued to be quite good, physical play was up and neither team really wanted to budge, heading into the dressing room.
At the start of the 3rd period, you could tell that the Rupp goal really put a fire into the bellies of the Rangers, as they were working a little bit harder, taking space away from the Flyers, making it increasingly difficult for their best player, Giroux, to get space and find his way to the net. Not more than three minutes in, Rupp again came up huge, tying the game on another transition play, sneaking an ugly one past Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.
That wasn't all the Rangers had in store either. Momentum was on their side, they had the Flyers right where they wanted them and pushed their way into the Flyers zone, forcing their defense to take an icing call, after being hemmed in for quite a while. The faceoff play kept the pressure on and a loose puck came out in front of the net, onto Brad Richards' stick and he buried the go-ahead goal with ease.
Once the 3-2 goal went in for the Rangers, they went into lockdown mode and they did it well too. The Flyers didn't have a great deal of quality chances, nor did they have many shots go through to the Rangers goal, only 10 shots in the 3rd period, total.
The real sticking points out there were Ryan Callahan's holding the stick penalty to negate a possible empty-net goal, while being taken down by Kimmo Timonen and then Henrik Lundqvist's massive save on Daniel Briere's penalty shot with only 20 seconds left on the clock. Two huge moments that let the Rangers hold on to a 3-2 win over the Flyers.
So, what does this all mean for the draft pool? Well, a 3-2 game turned out to only yield 9 points in total between all the players taken in the pool, thanks in large part to a couple of fourth line goals from the Rangers, that no one had invested in. Stuart G. won the day with only 2 points, thanks to the win from Lundqvist and seven teams had a single point. Not much going on there. Wes gained a defenseman, while Scott G. lost a forward, those are two big implications going forward as well.
Until next year, I guess.