Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
After spending two days taking in the sites and sounds of Fenway Park, the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers outdoor practice and numerous players and management interviews, I headed to Fenway knowing that today was the day, today the Bruins and Flyers would square off in front of over 38,000 fans. As the saying goes, “game on!!!”
On my way to the ballpark, I took in the atmosphere of the crowd, which was both playful and boisterous. Bruins and Flyers fans shared the streets outside Fenway, playfully bantering as they themselves took it all in.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino proclaimed Friday, January 1, 2010 as NHL Winter Classic Day. Players, media members and fans alike celebrated the day with much vigor as they paid tribute to two great franchises and the game of hockey in it’s purest form, outdoor pond hockey.
Heading into the game both teams tried to play down the event, but the smiles on their faces could not disguise their utter excitement to play in the Winter Classic as, for many players, the honor of playing in the classic was a dream come true.
The ceremonies before the drop of the puck included the singing of both the Canadian and American national anthems, during which, both the Canadian and American flags were draped over the green monster.
A stealth bomber flew over Fenway shortly thereafter. It was a sight to see, even if you could barely hear it in the skies.
Finally, after so much hype and dedicated media attention, the Players readied themselves to drop the puck. Hall of Famers Bobby Clarke (Flyers) and Bobby Orr (Bruins) were selected as honorary Captains for their former clubs, a nice touch that didn’t escape the players, media or the fans.
For the Philadelphia Flyers to be successful at Friday’s Bridgestone Winter Classic, many analysts thought they would have to weather the storm of a amped up Boston Bruins crowd. The Flyers did just that, keeping the Bruins off the scoreboard and, as a result, kept the fans quiet.
After a rather elementary first period by both clubs, the Flyers came out of the first intermission on fire. They hit everything that moved and dominated the seemingly slow Bruins.
The Flyers kept the puck in their opponents end for most of the period which paid off when Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who was named to Team USA after the game, retaliated against Flyers forward Scott Hartnell, leading to Flyers defenseman Danny Syvret scoring his first NHL goal of his career at 4:42 of the second period.
When the period was over, the Flyers looked every bit the better team and the scoreboard proved it as the Flyers would enter the third period up 1-0 on the Bruins.
By all accounts, the Flyers played a perfect road game for the first two periods. They didn’t take unnecessary penalties, they didn’t take unnecessary chances they kept the Bruins in check and they scored the first goal.
After the game, I had a chance to ask Bruins head coach Claude Julien about the Flyers dominance in the second period.
“We weren’t shooting pucks, we were trying to make those extra plays and those extra plays were being broken up and they would turn around and get a scoring chance off those turnovers or broken plays," Julien said. "They were bringing everything to the net. They were doing a much better job than we were. I wasn’t very happy."
Clearly, after such a lack luster second period the Bruins needed to dig deep and find the fire in their bellies. The Bruins played a more disciplined third period, but were not rewarded.
Then, at 16:08 of the third period, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen took a tripping penalty and, just like that, you could sense the momentum was about to change, destiny seemed to be rearing it’s head and the pendulum was about to turn in the Bruins favor.
With a crowd of players surrounding him, Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton, who had been very good throughout the game, watched as Bruins veteran NHL forward Mark Recchi tipped in a puck at 17:42 of the third period.
The Boston crowd, which had been eerily quiet up to that point, sprung out of their seats and erupted into cheers. Houston, we have a game...
With the game now tied and the Bruins now back in the game, Danny Briere inexplicably took a tripping call at 19:14 of the third, causing Bruins fans to once again leave their seats in excitement and anticipation of the power play to come.
The third period would end with no winner decided, which meant, this game was headed to overtime.
With the Bruins still on the power play, they came out with guns a blazing, quickly penetrating the Flyers defensive zone and attacking everything in orange and black.
Sadly, for Bruins fans, the power play ended without incident as the Bruins failed to score, the game was still tied.
With the shootout looming, fans seemed married to the fact that they would have to endure the cold for a bit longer. Then, with the puck already deep within the Flyers blue line, Bruins forward and Team Canada Olympic member Patrice Bergeron threw the puck at the net, which Germany’s Marco Sturm tipped in for the game winner.
Sturm’s goal capped off a remarkable comeback for the Bruins, one which will go down in history. Clearly, Sturm's goal was one of the biggest of his career.
“I just tried to go to the net. I think he (Bergeron) had Z (Zdeno Chara) open, too, a little bit, but he made a nice play for a tip-in”," Sturm said. "Like I said before, it’s just one of those memories that is always going to be probably—for right now—on top of my list”.
And for many Bruins fans as well, Mr. Sturm!
For the Flyers, Sturm’s goal marked the end of an otherwise well played game. That said, their Flyers undisciplined penalties near the end of the third period cost them the game which left players and head coach Peter Laviolette reeling.
“You know, it was probably their (Bruins) best period," Laviolette siad. "I still think we were in pretty good shape going down the stretch. Yeah, I think that was probably their best period."
According to Laviolette, the team played well despite the loss.
"We play pretty good on the road. I think that’s why we found some success," Laviolette said. "We have been limiting chances. Again, they got some better looks in the third and on the power play. defensively it’s been pretty tight. It’s a good thing, when you’re playing wide open and it goes the other way, it can snowball in a different direction. It was good that we were tight”.
But not when it counted most, which, for Flyers’ fans, is a shame, as, in my opinion, the Flyers deserved a better fate then they got tonight.
I’ll have more on the Winter Classic in the coming days. For now, I’d like to say thank you to the Bleacher Report and the NHL for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime of covering the Winter Classic. It was a privileged and, on a personal note, I think I have grown tremendously as a writer, which we can all capitalize on.
Until next time,