The shots and chances were there for the Flyers. Henrik Lundqvist was there for the New York Rangers. And a very festive Winter Classic started off well, only to finish in bitter disappointment for the home team. Between the opening draw and the final buzzer, there were plenty of up and down moments.
Coach Peter Laviolette went with Sergei Bobrovsky in net, which I fully supported. I am 100% behind the kid, and have plenty of faith in him. It’s not that I’m against Bryz at all, but I never thought signing him was necessary. I felt Bob was good enough to carry this team. Like every other goalie, he’s got some flaws. But I love his athleticism and the way he thinks. He doesn’t go into any game thinking about how big it is. He know’s his job is to stop pucks as often as possible, and nothing more. He doesn’t have a made for tv personality, and he doesn’t go out of his way to act differently. He’s a humble guy with a humble approach. And he’s been playing well all season long.
Danny Briere may have had his best game of the season, even if he didn’t score in the clutch. His first few seasons here, we hounded him for not putting up numbers worthy of his massive contract. Then, over the last two playoffs, we realized that he’s a primetime player that shines when the spotlights are the brightest. So while he’s been mostly invisible this season, many people have been patient because they expect him to step up once April arrives. However, during last nights showcase, he was one of our most dangerous players. He controlled the puck very well, created chances, and drove the net hard. Briere showed that he’s still got it, and our assumptions about him are spot on. He’s just waiting to turn it on once the games matter a bit more.
Wayne Simmonds was a monster as well. It seemed like he won every puck battle along the boards. He’s a big, strong guy with speed. he used all of his physical gifts and did his best to wear out the Rangers defense. He’s not the most finesse player, but I love his all around game. He is talented and smart, and plays his role very well. He chips in goals and stands up for his teammates. So far, I think he’s living up to his expectations perfectly, and I’m happy with his acquisition.
Claude Giroux was obviously awesome. But as the game wore on, his space was harder to come by. After his early breakaway that was turned aside, and his next in close chance that he converted on, the defense tightened up on him. It didn’t help that Jagr was hurt and missed pretty much the final two periods. While JVR is a fine replacement when he’s on his game, he hasn’t been anything special this season. He did look a bit better yesterday though. We know he’s got more in him, and we’re still waiting for him to turn it on.