SOUTH BEND, Ind. — We’re over 24 hours removed from the Bruins’ 4-2 victory over the Blackhawks at the 2019 Winter Classic, but there’s still plenty more to digest from the NHL’s annual showcase.
Here are five leftover thoughts from Tuesday's matchup at Notre Dame Stadium:
It’s only two points, but they were awfully valuable for the Bruins
When discussing the stakes when it comes to a Winter Classic matchup, most Bruins players largely chalked it up the usual mantra of “just another regular-season game”. Of course, that cliche is a bit different when playing in front of over 76,000 fans and a national TV audience, but the B’s didn’t want to get too high or too low after the victory.
“You want to win those games when you’re on the big stage like that,” Patrice Bergeron said. “I know its a regular-season game, but the meaning is different when you’re playing in front of 76,000 people and on national TV. We know what’s at stake in those games and we want to make the most of it. It was a great feeling in the locker room and I thought guys responded great to it.”
It might have been just another regular-season tilt in terms of points, but given where the B’s started at puck drop on Tuesday afternoon, there was quite a bit at stake, at least as far as optics go.
While Boston still has 42 games remaining on its regular-season docket, the club actually found itself on the outside looking in at a playoff spot prior to puck drop — with the Islanders holding the final Wild Card spot with 46 points. Boston matched New York in point totals, but the Islanders have two games in hand on the B’s, allowing them to push Boston down the standings.
What was once thought to be a three-team race at the top of the Atlantic has suddenly become much more muddled — with a young but surging Sabres club (21-13-6) staying afloat and a Canadiens club (21-14-5) that just can’t seem to go away.
With Boston’s victory at Notre Dame Stadium, however, the Bruins managed to leapfrog both clubs and the Islanders in the standings, sitting now in third place in the Atlantic with 48 points.
Boston still sits six points behind the Leafs (who also have a game in hand), while it doesn’t look like anyone is going to be catching the 31-7-2 Lightning, who are scorching just about everyone that’ve come in contact with this year.
A 2018-19 season that seemed primed for the Bruins to fall backward into at least the third seed of the Atlantic has become anything but a given with Montreal and Buffalo exceeding expectations.
Boston will likely have to look over its shoulder for most of 2019, but for now, Tuesday’s win at least puts Boston back where it wants to be — in line for a trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“Let’s hope we do build off (of this),” Cassidy said. “We’ve got a tough game coming up. We’ve got Calgary. We don’t have a lot of time to breathe. Just popped in eight goals against a pretty good defensive team (in San Jose). We’ve got to get back to work in a hurry. We’ll enjoy it for 24 hours and then move on.”
Pastrnak earns All-Star nod
A day after scoring a goal in his first Winter Classic appearance, David Pastrnak received even more good news.
The 22-year-old winger was named to the 2019 NHL All-Star team on Wednesday, standing as the first ASG appearance in his short career. It's a well-deserved honor for Pastrnak, who has tallied 24 goals and posted 50 points through 40 games this season.
With that scoring rate, he became the first Bruins player to reach the 50-point milestone within the team’s first 40 games of a season since 2006‑07, when Marc Savard accomplished the feat with 52 points over 39 games.
Pastrnak is the lone Bruin that will be represented this at the 2019 All-Star Game in San Jose — with other contenders like Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron just missing the cut in what has been a stacked Atlantic Division this year. Only two Atlantic clubs boast more than one player — the Lightning (Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos) and Maple Leafs (John Tavares, Auston Matthews).
TD Garden set for big things?
If you’ve been anywhere close to Causeway Street for the last couple of years, you’ve seen the amount of work being put into TD Garden — with the venue undergoing over $100 million in renovations that have changed the arena both inside and out.
The first phase of renovations. “The Hub on Causeway” is now completed — with the Garden featuring an actual front door, new MBTA and commuter rail station connections and added venues around the arena.
These renovations are expected to continue into next season, with loge and balcony concourses expected to add 15,000 square feet of new space, a new back-row bar level added to level eight of the arena, new locker rooms for both the Bruins and Celtics — along with new seats in both the loge and balcony.
Given the amount of work put into the 23-year-old venue, could the Garden be setting itself up to host a league-wide event for the NHL down the road?
The last time TD Garden hosted an NHL All-Star Game was back when it was called the FleetCenter during the 1996 season — a 5-4 victory for the East that saw Ray Bourque earn Game MVP honors.
In terms of hosting an NHL Draft, TD Garden last hosted one back in 1999 — an event in which the Thrashers drafted Patrik Stefan with the first overall pick (woof). Boston’s first pick in the draft? Nick Boynton with the 21st overall selection.
Speaking during the second intermission of Tuesday’s Winter Classic, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman noted that improvements underway at TD Garden have certainly put the arena back on the league’s radar.
“While we don’t have anything formally before us, I think once the renovations are done, we’ll have discussions, because obviously, Boston is another one of our great hockey markets, and the commitment that the Bruins and Bruins ownership have shown to Boston and the facilities have been phenomenal," Bettman said. "So I think, once they have them all done, my guess is we’ll have another discussion.”
B’s make a fashion statement
Even before the Bruins took to the ice at Notre Dame Stadium, the club was already making headlines — due in large part to their snazzy, pregame wardrobe.
Looking like something out of a 1920’s rum-running ring, the Bruins all donned vintage-era suits, vests and scally caps for their walk into the stadium.
The idea of the outfits, based on the Netflix TV series “Peaky Blinders”, manifested itself after an eventful Halloween party.
“A bunch of the guys dressed up as the Peaky Blinders for Halloween,” Brad Marchand said. “It kind of snowballed from there. That night, someone brought it up. I don’t remember who. I was — a couple deep. It just went from there. We all bought in right away.”
Upon agreeing to the team-wide wardrobe, Marchand said that Torey Krug had a tailor come in for most of the team, although even later additions to the club like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Colby Cave were also sporting full suits for the event.
Might the outfits make a reappearance later this season?
“I hope so,” Krug said. “Look good, feel good, play good. You have a little bit of swagger, I think it bleeds into your game. Hopefully that’s it.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 1, 2019
As for Cassidy’s choice of a hat for the outdoor event?
“The hat was borrowed last minute. ... Someone recommended it," Cassidy said. "It’s one of the players, so I credit the player. Brandon Carlo. I’ll give it away. So if you see him walking around with a hat that looks a lot like mine, it’s not mine, it was his. I took a chance. I’m not usually a fashionista, so I don’t know how it looked, but what the hell. I went with it.”
[caption id="attachment_479243" align="alignnone" width="1600"] SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - JANUARY 01: Head coach Bruce Cassidy of the Boston Bruins leaves the rink after beating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium on January 01, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)[/caption]
Thankfully, no one opted for the leprechaun look for the matchup at South Bend. That was saved for the Notre Dame mascot, who managed to wipe out on the ice just ahead of puck drop.
“We stick tapped for him,” Jake DeBrusk said of the leprechaun. “I think both teams did. He’s probably going to get some heck on social media, that’s for sure. But He was pretty pumped to be out there and he accepted it well. It happens to the best of us.”
“I saw that. He took a hard spill, but he got right back up, more credit to him,” Sean Kuraly added. “He didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him. He’s got a bruised tailbone, that’s for sure.”
Falling into 2019 like. pic.twitter.com/WW9K5XY91F
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 1, 2019
Celly season in South Bend
Given the big stage of the Winter Classic, a couple of Bruins players admitted that they had particular celebrations planned if they happened to light the lamp.
DeBrusk planned to do a snow angel on the outdoor sheet if he buried one — a move that Marchand later copied once the clock ran out in the third stanza.
He might have scored the biggest goal of the afternoon, but Kuraly stuck with his usual routine when he put Boston ahead midway through the third — an impromptu leap into the glass.
#NHLBRUINS WIN THE WINTER CLASSIC!!! 🙌
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 1, 2019
“Not the best at hiding my emotions after something like that,” Kuraly said. “And there’s no reason to, I don’t think. It was fun. When you look up into the crowd and it just seems to keep going. You look left and you look right. It’s fun.”
David Pastrnak’s tally in the first period drew plenty of questions as to the origin of his celly. Some thought it was an odd tribute to the Falcons “Dirty Bird” dance, while others thought he was imitating Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov.
The actual answer, according to David Pastrnak? A tribute to LeBron James.
“LeBron? Marchand said. “Pasta and LeBron are very similar, so.”
A good effort, but pretty tough to recreate out on the ice.
“I don’t know where that came from,” Cassidy said. “Oh, LeBron? I’ve got to pay more attention to basketball, then. I follow the Celtics, obviously. … I guess he had his thing. Good for him. I’m glad he had a chance to do it.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 1, 2019
Winter Classic a hit in South Bend
Despite some issues with food and drinks running out midway through Tuesday’s game, the NHL has to be pleased with how the 2019 Winter Classic panned out.
It was one of the more entertaining games in recent memory, while the official attendance for the matchup was a sellout sum of 76,126 fans. That marks the second-largest attendance ever for an NHL game, trailing only the 2014 Winter Classic, held in front of a crowd of 105,491 at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Winter Classic will likely never hit the level it reached during the first few years of its operation — highlighted by a 2011 bout between the Penguins and Capitals that drew 4.4 million viewers in the US.
But after averaging under 3 million viewers for the last four years, the event seems to be on pace for a slight rebound — with a 1.94 overnight rating standing as the best showing for the event in four years.
Next up for the Winter Classic — a matchup at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas between the Stars and an opponent that has yet to be determined. Jim Lites versus Tyler Seguin / Jamie Benn, anyone?