2012 NHL Winter Classic: 5 Players Who Found Their Game

Jacob Betzner@@JacobBetznerCorrespondent IIJanuary 4, 2012

2012 NHL Winter Classic: 5 Players Who Found Their Game

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    In an event unlike anything ever before, the NHL proposed an outdoor game between two of its professional hockey clubs at the start of the 2007-2008 season.

    Five years and five cities later, the NHL Winter Classic is now an annual event that offers players a chance to play in front of crowds nearly twice as big as a typical NHL arena.

    There is nothing quite like playing on such a big stage in the open environment that brings many players (especially the Canadians) back to their roots.

    This year, the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers faced off in the NHL's fifth annual Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

    The Rangers erased a second-period 2-0 Flyer lead and claimed a 3-2 victory after Brad Richards buried a rebound behind Flyers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

    Several players who had a solid game could use the Classic as a starting point to finish the second half of the 2011-2012 season on a strong note.

Mike Rupp

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    Mike Rupp has kept improving after battling back from an injury at the beginning of the season.

    While the Rangers don't expect the 31-year-old to score 30 or even 20 goals a year, Rupp should be able to to get put up around 10 to 15 given the ice time.

    Rupp is one of those guys who will score a big goal from time to time, and he did just that on Monday.

    Head Coach John Tortorella loves Rupp's leadership and strong work ethic.

    Look for a career year for the 6'5" center from Cleveland.

Sergei Bobrovsky

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    With his performance in Monday's game, Bobrovsky might just have stolen the starting job from the star of HBO's 24/7 Flyers/Rangers series, Ilya Bryzgalov.

    The netminder stopped 30 of 33 shots and looked pretty solid in net.

    The management isn't happy with the play of Bryzgalov, especially after signing him to a lucrative deal this offseason.

    Bobrovsky's stats are better than Bryzgalov's, but he is still too inexperienced to backstop a team for an entire year.

    The two tendies might split time until Bryzgalov rightfully earns the starting job, and we all know of the Flyers' goaltending woes in the playoffs.

    At least for the time being, Peter Laviolette should keep playing Bobs while he's hot.

Artem Anisimov

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    Anisimov had a great game on Monday.

    He had several opportunities that came very close.

    He's only 23 years old and still finding his way in the NHL, but with good size and speed, he has the ability to put up some good numbers for the Blueshirts.

    He might make a better winger than center but plays well defensively in the middle.

    Expect to hear more from the young Russian center as the season and his career progress.

Brayden Schenn

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    Schenn recently returned from a concussion and finally got the goal monkey off his back.

    Schenn opened the scoring for the Classic after jamming a second-period rebound behind Lundqvist.

    The Flyers happily accepted Schenn as part of a deal that sent former captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings.

    Schenn starred for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League.  He scored 99 points in only 59 games before being taken fifth overall by the Kings in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

    He also tied the record for most goals in a single game by a Canadian national team member when he scored four against the Czech Republic.  (The other two players to tally four goals for a Canadian national team are Simone Gagné and the legendary Mario Lemieux.)

    The organization expects a lot out of the young center as he finds his stride in the big leagues.

Marc Staal

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    Staal returned from a lengthy concussion of his own and quickly looked right in place on the Rangers' blue line.

    He didn't put up any points, or even shots, but did finish with a plus-1 rating.

    Staal was selected to play in the NHL's All-Star Game last season and was expected to log heavy minutes for the Rangers before taking a vicious hit from his older brother, Eric.

    Staal has the ability to be a premiere all-around defensman in the NHL and will start proving himself once again.

    Let's just hope the symptoms don't return like a certain player on his brother Jordan's team.