Winter Classic grades: Jonathan Bernier stellar to lift Leafs
The atmosphere was incredible, perhaps a little better than the game but after a slow start the Winter Classic at the Big House entertained enough too.
|B+||There was little denying the Red Wings had the better of the chances in the game, or at least they had more of the good chances. On multiple occasions they were able to get behind the Leafs and create odd-man rushes, they just had a tough time beating Bernier in net. As long as the puck was on the ice the Wings were good to go; it was the airborne pucks that hurt. They obviously didn't want to have to come from behind but they did a good job of pushing hard and were rewarded with a late goal. Unfortunately the shootout felled them once again.|
|B||The Leafs didn't quite seem to handle the elements as well as their counterparts at first. As is often the case, they were chasing the play more often than not. Outside of Phil Kessel, there wasn't a lot of offense being generated. But as they often do, they woke up midway through the game and then had a couple of goal before you knew it by crowding the Red Wings' net. Like so many of their games, it was hardly perfect but it was good enough to win, even if they did surrender more than a comfortable amount of scoring chances. In the end it was the shootout that pulled through again.|
|A+||Hey, there wasn't a lot the league could do about Mother Nature, but pretty much everything in the league's power was handled very well. The ice was about as good as could possibly be expected and they had crews at the ready at nearly every puck stoppage to come out to quickly and effectively clean the ice. The game was hardly a thing of beauty, but the images? Those absolutely were. The site of seeing more than 100,000 fans split down the middle, half red on one side, half blue on the other, was phenomenal.|
|A||Jonathan Bernier, complete with toque on top of his helmet, was fantastic for the Maple Leafs in goal and did his part to keep Toronto in the game to the bitter (cold) end by turning away a slew of shots from Detroit from start to finish. It's nothing particularly new for Bernier, who has been doing that all season, but that doesn't mean his play should go unheralded. He was as strong as they could have asked for, stopping 41 of 43.|
|A-||Phil Kessel didn't score in the game but he was all over for the Leafs and did get credit for an assist on JVR's second-period, game-tying goal. Through the first two periods, Kessel had recorded seven of Toronto's 18 shots on goal. There were concerns that his speed, his best attribute besides his pure shotting ability, would be neutralized by the snow and slower conditions but he still made his presence felt.|
Dion Phaneuf was the only player in the game to record two points, picking up a pair of assists even though it was one of his shots that ended up going in (deflected on the way by teammate Tyler Bozak). He got to work on earning that new seven-year extension he just signed not only with the points but also by playing more minutes than anybody on the ice (minus the goaltenders, of course). One blemish: He did take a holding penalty but the Leafs were able to kill the two minutes.
|A-||Tyler Bozak, much maligned at times in Toronto by the Leafs faithful, had a pretty nice game for himself when all was said and done. He got credit for the go-ahead goal in the third period when he deflected the puck on net and then capped the shootout by beating Howard and giving Toronto the two points they coveted to surpass the Red Wings in the standings for the time being.|
|B||Daniel Alfredsson scored a goal in the second period, and in this game that was a huge feat. Scoring chances were at a premium. When Henrik Zetterberg sprung the puck free for a 2-on-1 rush, he was able to get the puck past defenseman Jake Gardiner toward Alfie, who was doing his best to hold off the backchecking Joffrey Lupul. It was one of a few shots on the day for Alfie. It was appropriate that he scored the first one given his history as a thorn in the Leafs' side from being in Ottawa. Further, there was some question if Alfredsson would even play after being scratched in Detroit's last game. He was definitely noticeable (the Leafs fans noticed him too, boooo).|
|A-||Jimmy Howard wasn't called on as often as his counterpart but he did a pretty solid job when asked, especially given the fact that he admitted coming into the game he wasn't at the perfect place mentally after a tough game in Nashville. As long as the pucks were on the ice, he was stopping them. It was a pair of pucks batted out of the air that got past him.|
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