People are beginning to sour on the outdoor game trend in the NHL, and I don’t blame them. The idea started off as unique and slowly but surely became par for the course, with multiple games a year being played in unorthodox venues. But they’re so, so fun; they bring the game to its roots, the difficulties of maintaining the conditions add a layer to the game, and they’re still unique enough to pull in new fans.
They’re also better when the Red Wings win, of course. There was more than a little heartbreak when Detroit’s heroes failed to beat the Avs Alumni yesterday, but in the game with real, 2016 implications, the boys in red came out on top.
Like most outdoor games, play was often sloppy, as evidenced by the first goal. Tomas Tatar opened the scoring after an offensive zone faceoff win, failing on a wraparound but picking up a last-ditch effort of a rebound past Semyon Varlamov. The lead only lasted two and a half minutes, though; Gabriel Landeskog beat Alexey Marchenko to the puck and sent Nathan MacKinnon off to the races; followed by a wrister that beat Petr Mrazek. Colorado doubled up with five minutes remaining in the period, as Blake Comeau sucked Detroit’s forecheckers into a corner for just long enough to free up Tyson Barrie, who pulled off a nifty fake move to give the Avs the lead.
Both teams calmed down and tried to get a feel for each other during the second period, combining for just eight shots and no goals. But come the third period, the only thing more dominant than the winds that were ripping apart the fake snow was the Wings roster. Gustav Nyqvist tied things up just a minute and a half in with this impossible-looking blindfolded backhand.
The two teams switched sides at the midway point of the period, and that’s when the goals started to fly. With six minutes to go, Darren Helm led a strong forecheck and set up Justin Abdelkader for a tap-in at the front of the Colorado net, giving the Wings a lead. Alex Tanguay responded almost immediately, slapping home a loose puck that was placed in front of the net by a strong post-faceoff rush by his team.
The game looked poised for overtime, but with a minute to go, Brad Richards played the hero, grabbing the rebound on Niklas Kronwall’s point shot to score what would end up being the game-winning goal. Helm added an empty-netter to cap off the 5-3 final score.
Why The Red Wings Won
It’s an outdoor game. Let’s not worry about the strategy too much and enjoy it. I’ll settle for “they wanted to get revenge for the Alumni Team”.
Motor City MVP
Again, I’d prefer to not over-quantify who the best player in an outdoor game was. Though, a case can be made for Darren Helm’s two points and stellar possession statistics. More importantly, though, the MVP’s are everybody who made another one of these entertaining outdoor games possible; the NHL, the Red Wings Alumni, and (gasp) even the Avalanche organization. It was a throwback to the greatest hockey rivalry of the last generation, and a bunch of fun from beginning to end.
See You Next Time
It’s time to go back inside, sadly. Detroit’s next game comes on Monday night, against the Dallas Stars. Puck drop is at 8:30; five and a half hours after the trade deadline. Will the Wings have some new faces? Stay tuned to find out!