The 2016 NHL Winter Classic is just 24 hours away and there are many questions surrounding both the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens. Injury concerns on both sides and a big move from the Habs, have the biggest outdoor game in the spotlight.
The Canadiens began the season with an unbelievable show of force that shattered records in their longstanding history. A nine game winning streak took them into three weeks of hockey not looking to lose. Once a loss brought them off the eyes of the hockey world, the path was to keep their hold of the top spot in the Atlantic Division.
For the Habs, it was Carey Price that had them where they were but fatigue and coming off his MVP and numerous awards from last season took their toll. He suffered a lower body injury that shook the Montreal lineup to concern. They had second goaltender Mike Condon who came in immediately filling the skates of Price and kept the Habs winning. He started to have the same problems like Price playing more games than he ever imagined playing in the National Hockey League.
Brendan Gallagher, like Condon was an essential part to the youth of the team and had the power to score. Before his hand injury occurred on Nov. 22, Gallagher already had nine goals, ten assists for 19 points with a plus-seven rating. Once surgery was completed on his hand the Habs had a huge hole to fill in order to stay competitive.
They won the three of the first four games without him but consistency went out the window sending Montreal into a downward spiral. The Canadiens went on a four game losing streak before finding a victory against the Ottawa Senators Dec. 12. Thinking that things would get back to normal they came back from a 48-hour break from competition before losing the next six straight. During their longest losing streak of the season, the news came of Gallagher’s possible return to the team that could help them start 2016 with a win.
Helping in Montreal’s second outdoor game was a new face to join the roster that then became their last hope. Ben Scrivens who was playing with the Oilers AHL team in Bakersfield, California was given an opportunity to help not only himself but also the Canadiens get on the right side of things for the New Year.
“I’m definitely happy with how things played out,” Scrivens said. Definitely happy to get a new chance to play in the NHL again.” They traded off recently acquired Zach Kassian in a desperate attempt to find a veteran goaltender since Price was still going to miss the Winter Classic. The No. 1 goalie for the Oilers has a 15-26-11 record and 3.16 goals against average. He played strong as a second string for the Los Angeles Kings and the Toronto Maple Leafs that made him the best chance for the Habs.
For the Bruins, the only biggest loss to their lineup was David Krejci who suffered an upper body injury during Sunday’s match against the Ottawa Senators. For the veteran center, it was a tough thought that he would be out of the Winter Classic but luckily he had been in one before. Back in 2010, the Bruins hosted the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park winning it in the third period where Krejci himself contributed in the goal scored by teammate Mark Recchi.
For Brad Marchand, he would go out on different circumstances that he would no doubt regret. The veteran forward was given a three game suspension that included not playing in the Winter Classic for a clipping penalty against the Senators Tuesday.
At 8:41 of the first period, Marchand went low directing himself at defenseman Mark Borowiecki and flipped him over using his shoulder causing him to land headfirst bending his neck in a dangerous position.
Since he is a repeat offender and has done the same move on different occasions, the NHL Department of Player Safety decided to take a strong stance and let others know that actions such as Marchand’s would not be tolerated.
With two big named players out for Boston and Montreal playing with a newly acquired goaltender, the game as a whole would be of complete interest giving both squads an even chance of victory. Both the Bruins and Canadiens have played in outdoor games in the past with the Bruins being victorious while the Habs want nothing more than to take their rivalry and steal a win in Foxboro.