The build up to the Winter Classic is immense. There is a behind-the-scenes series cataloguing both teams for four weeks. There are commercials about the teams and by the players. Fans of both teams get their battle armor in the form of jerseys, tuques and more. And, as was the case in the 2016 Winter Classic, those two teams and their fans came with a long and storied rivalry. It was perfect. Even the weather seemed willing to cooperate as the overcast skies helped prevent dangerous soft patches on the ice, while the temperatures weren’t ridiculously high or low. And though some snow flurries might have added to the romance, the lack of any precipitation also played in the favor of what should have been an intense and amazing game.
The Patriots lent their end zone gunners to the cause. Some of their players took to social media to offer positive vibes to one of the teams. Flames and fireworks helped increase the drama as the teams entered for battle. A flyover by a C130-J airplane piloted by the Rhode Island’s Air National Guard brought even more excitement. Unfortunately, one of the teams didn’t get the memo as to the emotion of this game – the home team dressed in black and gold.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 1, 2016
At the end of the first period the only thing keeping the score 1-0 which was in favor of the Montreal Canadiens, was the goaltending of Tuukka Rask. The Boston Bruins had managed just three shots in the 20-minute period, which factored to about one shot every seven minutes, as opposed to the 14 shots that Rask saw in that first frame. And when it came to blocked or missed shots, the Canadiens had an additional 6 blocked and 8 that missed their mark. The Bruins? They had just a single shot that missed the net.
The second period saw more shots by the Bruins, despite being down 2-0 early, but as often happens, many of those were being taken along the perimeter of the ice. While such shots can prove to be a valuable weapon on a goalie who is giving up rebounds, someone has to be buzzing around the crease to capitalize, and the Bruins simply weren’t.
This is not to diminish the abilities of Mike Condon, who was between the pipes for Montreal, while Carey Price continues his recovery. Some of his saves were impressive and at one point, with just a second remaining in the period, while the Bruins were on the power play, he outright robbed Ryan Spooner with his catcher. Had that puck gotten past him, who knows what would have happened in the third. So, despite the improved play by Boston, when the period ended they had nothing to show for it and the Canadiens had notched a third to make it 3-0.
In looking at the break down of shots by the Bruins in the two periods, Spooner and Matt Beleskey led the team. The two of them combined for five of the 14 shots in the middle frame. And Spooner would finish the game with the most shots of anyone in black and gold.
Between injuries and the suspension to Brad Marchand, Beleskey and Spooner, along with Brett Connolly, comprised the second line of forwards. Beleskey would end up with the most hits in the game. A goal credited to him at the time has since been credited to Adam McQuaid with assists to Spooner and Jimmy Hayes, which finally put the Bruins on the scoreboard just seconds shy of the four minute mark of the third period.
With a 3-1 score and 16 minutes still to play, it seemed possible that the Bruins could perhaps tie the game and force overtime. However, five minutes later the Canadiens again went up by three. Despite limiting Montreal to just five shots on net, this and another would get past Rask before the game was done. Yet another puck would jump up under Rask’s mask and catch him in the neck—giving everyone a scare. He would shake it off—after being looked at by the trainers—and finish the game. And almost the very next pass after that scare would see the puck bounce up and over the board and hit one of the cameramen on the Bruins’ bench. It seemed like the pucks were aiming at them instead of them aiming the pucks.
In the end the Canadiens would get the win and the Bruins would find themselves having to look at each other.
“Forever now it’s going to be a game that we’re not very proud of and we’re all going to look back and be embarrassed about,” Torey Krug said in the locker room. “We’re trying to represent a great organization and a lot of great fans and we blew it for sure.”
Krug called Marchand a “spark plug” for the team. However, they unfortunately have two more games—with four important points on the line—before Marchand can return.
“It falls on the players shoulders that are in here that are…,” he struggled for words. “You can’t look around, you have to look within yourself and try and bring something to the table to help your team win. Each guy has to individually try and find that.”
Emotion is definitely a part of the game of hockey, and it is something that the Bruins rely on; doing better when they play to a certain level of emotion. Unfortunately, there seems to be a fine line that separates that level that ensures success for the team and too much emotion in which their response is to come out flat.
“You have to find that. I think that’s one of those times that [Marchand] steps up for us and he’s always trying to flirt with that line for us,” Krug responded. “So unfortunately we’re always looking for answers tonight and no one was able to step up and help us out with that. Emotion is a big part of the game and I feel like we should have won tonight.”
The Bruins did not play good hockey, but beyond that they embarrassed themselves and their fans on a national stage. More importantly they lost two crucial points in an Eastern Conference that is so close that a single game can completely alter the standings. They will need to put the Winter Classic aside—something they will undoubtedly be happy to do—and figure out how to return to the better play they had in December. And they will need to do it quickly as they cannot wait for the return of Marchand.
They have one more home game on Tuesday against the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals—a team they tend to struggle with—before they take it on the road for five games. It’s January, and every game is important at this point. Their difficult start to the season has not left them much wiggle room in regard to lost points if they want to make it to the playoffs.
For the full interview with Krug, see below: