By: Carl Landra
With the jump to 2016 upon us that means that it’s time for the NHL’s New Year’s Day tradition: the Winter Classic. This year’s edition takes place in Foxborough, Massachusetts at Canadiens come to town to face the Boston Bruins. In addition to the actual game itself on New Year’s Day, there will be the traditional Alumni Game on New Year’s Eve (3:30PM ET), as well as a new addition before the alumni game: the first ever outdoor women’s professional hockey game (1:00PM ET). This game will feature the Boston Pride NWHL and the Les Canadiennes of the CWHL, in what is guaranteed to be a special moment for not only the players in the game, but everyone in both leagues as well. Before the game on New Year’s Day here are 4 things to know.
Any time you play a hockey game outside, weather will be a significant factor. The NHL’s outdoor games have historically experienced everything from rain, snow, sun glare and both balmy and frigid temperatures. Fortunately, the weather has been sufficient for getting the rink built and setup. In spite of warmer than average temperatures, the ice was ready for both teams to have their family skate Wednesday afternoon. During preparations for the game, rain in the Boston area had made rink setup an issue, but that weather had left the area in time for the work to be finished. The forecast for January 1 is expected to be 40 degrees F (4 C) according to AccuWeather.com, with only a 4% chance of precipitation. This will give a dry game day that is slightly warmer than is ideal, but certainly nothing the facilities operations team can’t handle.
Boston Bruins’ forward Brad Marchand was suspended 3 games for his illegal hit on Ottawa Senators’ defenceman Mark Borowiecki on Tuesday, December 29. Marchand clipped Borowiecki in the 1st period of Tuesday’s game, taking Borowiecki out at the knees. This is Marchand’s second clipping suspension. He was also suspended 5 games for clipping Vancouver Canuck Sami Salo in January 2012. The Winter Classic will be game #1 of Marchand’s suspension. You can see more explanation of the suspension here:
What does this mean for the Bruins? Marchand leads the Bruins this year with 15 goals and has been playing on the left side of the top line with Patrice Bergeron. Obviously, this isn’t offensive ability that can be replaced. It’s likely that Tyler Randell will take Marchand’s spot on the roster and Matt Beleskey will take Marchand’s place on the LW of the first line.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price took home every award in sight at the 2015 NHL Awards ceremony, winning the Hart (MVP) and Vezina (best goaltender) trophies, to name just two. Unfortunately for Montreal, Price has been out with a knee injury since November 25 and will not be available for this game. That leaves Montreal with Mike Condon and the recently acquired Ben Scrivens in net.
Condon is likely to get the start for Montreal, which is a good story itself. Condon grew up in the Boston area, playing for Belmont Hill School before going on to play at Princeton. Condon was undrafted, playing in the ECHL and AHL before getting a shot with the Canadiens this season. He pays tribute to his Boston past with a Patriots themed section on the back of his helmet featuring images of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, the Patriots four Lombardi trophies and the quote “Do Your Job”.
Injuries are a big factor for both teams in this game. As mentioned, Montreal is without Carey Price. They have also been without forward Brendan Gallagher since November 22 following surgery to repair a broken hand. Gallagher hopes to return for this game and will likely be a game time decision. Gallagher has 9 goals and 10 assists in 22 games for Montreal this season. His return will be a big benefit for Montreal’s struggling offense. Boston will be without center David Krejci, after also losing center Chris Kelly to a broken leg in early November. Krejci has 33 points in 35 games so far this season for Boston, meaning his offensive talent will be missed. Boston will look for Max Talbot and Ryan Spooner to step up, centering the 2nd and 3rd lines, behind #1 center Patrice Bergeron.
The 2016 NHL Winter Classic can be seen on January 1 at 1 PM ET on NBC and Sportsnet.