We're close to a day removed from Boston's 7-3 win over the Flyers at the NHL's Outdoors at Lake Tahoe event, but there’s still plenty more to digest from the outdoor showcase. Here are five leftover thoughts from Sunday's matchup on the shores of Lake Tahoe.
Blast from the past
Whether it be 1920s England or a 1990 Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch music video shoot, the Bruins sure know how to make an entrance for the NHL's outdoor showcases.
Two years ago, the Bruins arrived at Notre Dame Stadium paying homage to the TV series "Peaky Blinders", striding into South Bend like a group of prohibition-era hooligans — donning vintage-era suits, vests and scally caps for their pregame attire.
The vibes this time around over at Lake Tahoe were ... a bit different — and a lot more colorful — to say the least.
Rather than resembling a rum-running ring from the 1920s, the 2021 Bruins looked more like the antagonists of a cheesy '90s-era ski patrol flick on Sunday evening, donning colorful windbreakers, mirrored shades and goggles, retro FILA sneakers and a whooooole bunch of neon.
"Yeah, we're just trying to have fun," John Moore said. "I can't say this will be a staple in my wardrobe, but it's fun. We kind of bond together with this. We did it with Peaky Blinders back in South Bend and we're just trying to have fun. We turned to each other when we were walking in and said — 'Man, we better win. You wouldn't want to be walking out here dressed like this.'"
The colorful concoction that the Bruins unveiled upon arriving at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort ahead of Sunday's matchup against the Flyers had all of the makings of the plan schemed up by some of the tricksters on the roster, such as Brad Marchand or Jake DeBrusk.
But the true ring leader?
"Bergy, obviously," David Pastrnak said postgame, while still donning the shades that he might have captured after defending a WWF title of yesteryear. "He's always one step ahead of it with this kind of stuff. So it was his idea. We all loved it. So we jumped onboard right away and it's a good idea. We had some fun ordering the stuff and walking to the game. As I said, it was a lot of fun. So, great little bonding here."
You can't say that the Bruins don't commit when it comes to team-wide wardrobe themes, especially with Bergeron spearheading the efforts to send the B's back to the age of Zubaz and Walkman players.
Bergeron certainly looked the part, donning an authentic Cam Neely t-shirt underneath a tricolored neon jacket — while also equipping himself with a fanny back and a yellow cassette player.
Jaroslav Halak, Brandon Carlo and Tuukka Rask all followed suit with their own neon jackets, with Halak going the extra mile by wearing a fake mullet that he even wore out during warmups on the outdoor sheet of ice.
Steven Kampfer and Connor Clifton opted for Mighty Ducks jerseys, while both Anders Bjork and Jack Studnicka wore Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson jerseys from their early days with the Lakers and Bethel High School, respectively. Jeremy Lauzon rocked a Power Rangers sweatshirt, while Charlie Coyle rolled out the acid-washed jeans. Jake DeBrusk, looking like an extra in a Jamiroquai music video, joined many other teammates with a flashy fanny pack — while Nick Ritchie looked like a sentient disposable cup found at EVERY '90s eatery.
Players like Brad Marchand and John Moore fully committed to ski suits (Marchand's featuring flames, of course), while a pair of youngsters in Trent Frederic and Urho Vaakanainen wore Sublime and Aerosmith shirts. While elder statesmen like Bergeron might have had at least somewhat of a grasp on '90s fashion, it was a bit of a challenge for a '98-born skater like Frederic.
"I just got it a couple days ago," Frederic said. "I think that's 90s, right? I don't really know. But yeah, we have fun. Obviously, when you put those on, you gotta win. We got to wear him out too. So it was good that we got the win. And we're just like kids again. We had a really fun time.”
A convincing 7-3 victory certainly cemented the good vibes that Bergeron and the B's brought out West, but given how little players are allowed to interact off the ice this season, this weekend trek offered a great chance for the B's to bond — and make an impressive fashion statement.
"I loved it — looks like they dug through my old wardrobe," Bruce Cassidy joked.
[caption id="attachment_606438" align="alignnone" width="800"] (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)[/caption]
Aside from setting sun, B's have no issues with on-ice conditions
Unlike Saturday's calamity — in which sunny conditions forced the NHL to halt play between the Golden Knights and Avalanche after the first period and resume action at midnight — Sunday's conditions between the Bruins and Flyers were much less intrusive, at least in the final two periods once the sun set over the Sierra Nevada mountains.
In the opening 20 minutes, the glare was evident — with the Bruins in particularly getting the short end of the stick with the sun shining directly in their faces when skating toward Carter Hart and the Flyers' net.
Still, that didn't preclude Pastrnak from lighting the lamp just 34 seconds into the game — even though the linemate who orchestrated the opening tally could have used Pastrnak's pregame shades on the drive to the net.
“It was really challenging, but it was really fun," Pastrnak said. "Marshy told me he didn’t even see the net. "He was like, ‘I was passing the whole time because I couldn’t even see where the net is.’ For me, I knew it was coming."
Even though Rask dealt with some issues in the opening 20 minutes off of a bad bounce off the boards that led to a Grade-A chance — and score — for Flyers winger Joel Farabee, he wasn't plagued by any seeing-eye softies brought on by the unusual sightlines. Much like Marchand, fellow winger Trent Frederic noted that the primary issue came when skating on the left side, with eye black not doing much to alleviate the challenges brought upon by the shine of the sun.
"It was it was definitely tough with the sun," Frederic said. "Just the angle it was at — taking away that left side. But it was fun. That's exactly what you want in a game like this. You don't want to just be a normal hockey game. You want some adversity and it was a real fun time."
The early hiccups seemed to be well worth the optics that followed, as the on-ice conditions improved over the final two periods of play — and the game was complemented with some stunning shots of the sunset and the scenery around both the B's and Flyers.
"Hats off to the NHL and everyone who made this happen. It was really special. You know, it's a tough year without fans," Moore said. "But you can't say enough about this event. I've been fortunate to play in a couple of outdoor games. And this one just blows them all out of the water. You wish your family could be a part of it, but we really tried to embrace it and have fun as a group. And obviously winning helps. And it was a great memory."
It remains to be seen how viable these outdoor showcases — sans fans, but heavy on the scenery — will be once things (hopefully) get back to normal in 2022 and beyond. But count the players as fans of the overall product — offering a memorable weekend during a season that's been far from ordinary.
"I made it a point during my warmup to go outside to kind of the tent we have and warm up outside with the backdrop and the mountains and just kind of take it all in," Moore said. "That was kind of one thing I wanted to focus on. One thing we talked about as a group is having fun. This is a special moment — you cherish these things. And these are the events when you look back at the end of your career, you'll really remember. So again, you know, thank God we came out with the two points and it'll be a fun flight home."
Coyle breaks through
Bumped up to the second-line pivot spot with David Krejci on the shelf, Charlie Coyle responded with a much-needed tally during Boston's four-goal salvo in the second period — snapping a puck past Hart to give the B's a 4-2 lead at the time.
It's been a challenging season for Coyle, at least when it comes to offensive production — as he entered Sunday's outdoor matchup with an eight-game goalless streak and just four points (two goals, two assists) in his first 15 games of the season. When he's locked in, Coyle is at his best when he's holding onto the puck, extending O-zone time and feeding his linemates for quality looks in Grade-A ice. But Cassidy noted ahead of puck drop that Coyle also needed to pepper the net himself if he wanted to gain a bit more traction on the scoresheet.
He apparently heeded his coach's words, as Coyle attempted five shots on goal and generated two individual high-danger scoring chances in his 17:52 of ice time on Sunday.
"I think forwards, a lot of times, especially if you're in the top six or nine judge themselves on some offensive numbers," Cassidy said. "So Charlie Coyle obviously I know was wanting to bring more offensively. I thought he did tonight attack more. His goal's a great example of that — didn't look to pass, made his move, attacked the net, got rewarded."
Frederic tallies his first
While a number of youngsters on a shorthanded blue line stood out during Sunday's win, the next wave of B's talent up front also made their mark — headlined by Frederic's first career goal in his 33rd game with the Black and Gold.
Frederic's value to this club goes far beyond his offensive production, as his snarl and forechecking ability have been welcomed in Boston's bottom six. But given the amount of reps he's logged in the NHL ranks, Frederic was more than due to finally find twine.
"I mean, it's kind of a pinch-yourself moment," Frederic. "It was a little different obviously being outdoors. No fans, you don't exactly get the loud noise and stuff. So it took me a little bit to realize how real it was."
Jack Studnicka had a rather quiet night through the first two periods of play, but the young pivot made his mark once the game opened up a bit in the third — setting up Pastrnak's third goal of the night off of a slick feed after keeping the puck in the Flyers' zone at the high slot.
The kids are indeed alright.
Pastrnak the star of the show
He's already starring in Dunkin ads and is a regular face on the national circuit, but if I was the NHL marketing department — I'd throw a boatload of resources into plastering David Pastrnak's face all over the place.
If the NHL wants to continue to grow the game, build more fans and contend for market visibility against titans like the NFL, NBA and MLB, it desperately needs stars capable of thrilling on the ice while being engaging off of it.
Pastrnak, with his gregarious personality, eccentric wardrobe and impressive on-ice talent, should check off all of the boxes that the NHL is looking for when it comes to identifying the new faces of this game — with other top talent like Connor McDavid not holding a candle to the B's winger when it comes to marketability, at least based on persona.
As if the NHL would need proof, just look at Pastrnak's body of work in Tahoe — in which he buried a hat trick during the national showcase, rocked some "Macho Man" shades during warmups and then stole headlines with an all-timer interview following the victory.
"We were listening to Barbie Girl before you guys asked me to do media," Pastrnak said when asked why he was still wearing his showy shades at night. "I was kind of dancing with these glasses out in the locker room then you guys ruined it & I had to go answer questions. So I missed the Barbie girl song. Who knows what's gonna be on when I come back."
What a talent - and what a character. Don't mess this up, NHL.