Happy New Year sports enthusiasts! It’s shaping up to be a good one here in Vancouver, so let’s get after it.
•The myth that is the New York Rangers appears at GM Place tonight for the first time since November of 2002, but let’s not start 2008 with another rant on the NHL schedule. With names like Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez in uniform for the visitors, one might expect a contrast in styles at the Garage this evening, but surprisingly, these teams are very similar.
Despite their apparent surplus of firepower, the Rangers have actually scored fewer goals than the goal-challenged Canucks this season. Former Vancouver bench boss Tom Renney has the blue shirts playing team defence so well that they, like the Canucks, are in the NHL’s top five in terms of goals against.
•There will always be critics when a single game receives the hype that Tuesday’s Winter Classic did, but I’m in the majority who enjoyed it. Would it have been nice to see more goals? Of course. Did the numerous Zamboni appearances hurt the pace of the game? Sure. But the outstanding atmosphere in Buffalo translated well to TV, from the more than 71,000 in the stands to the falling snow to the old school jerseys of both the Penguins and Sabres. And when the face of the NHL (aka Sidney Crosby) scores the winning goal in a shootout with that many people watching, everybody wins.
That all said, part of the reason the Winter Classic worked is the four years since the Heritage Classic in Edmonton; the fact that it’s a rare event creates more of a novelty effect. Although a number of cities are already asking about staging an outdoor game next year, the NHL would be foolish to make this an annual event while still in the infancy stage of developing such projects.
•Count me among those who would like to see Jonathan Bernier between the pipes for Team Canada tomorrow morning against the high-flying Americans at the World Juniors. While the LA Kings’ first rounder had a rough third period against Sweden in the round robin, he is a better goalie at this point than teammate Steve Mason.
Mason gave up two bad goals against a Finnish team that barely mustered any quality scoring chances; that nearly proved costly for a Canadian side that has struggled to score goals this tourney. Bernier is a better option against a U.S. team that has averaged more than four goals per game and surrendered a total of just eight in four straight wins.
Mix equal parts college athlete, sports fan and broadcaster. Shake vigorously. Serve chilled Monday-Friday on the TEAM 1040 from 6-9 a.m. or online at thetoulbox.blogspot.com