BOSTON -- Here are our grades for Friday's third annual Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins:
No rain, no snow, no wind
no problem. Does NHL commissioner Gary Bettman have a direct line to Mother Nature or what? The best weather the Winter Classic has had so far. Grade: A.
Speaking of the best so far, the ice certainly was an upgrade from last year in Chicago and definitely better than Buffalo from two years ago. Kudos to NHL ice guru Dan Craig and his staff, who worked around the clock in preparation for this event. Still, it wasn't perfect. The left faceoff dot in one end needed constant attention throughout the game. Grade: B.
The infield was pristine, with a nice coating of blown snow. The performances of the Canadian and American national anthems were stellar, especially hometown favorite James Taylor's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." The Dropkick Murphys provided the rock, and Bobby Orr and Bobby Clarke provided a link to the Classic teams' past. All good. Grade: A-minus
The contrasting colors of Flyers and Bruins draped Fenway Park in a breathtaking scene. The competing chants for each team won't soon be forgotten. The frenzied dancing and singing to "Sweet Caroline" with five minutes left in the third period was also memorable. Grade: A.
The team has finally found its way under new coach Peter Laviolette, and probably deserved a better fate Friday. But a lack of finish around the net, especially on a breakaway from Arron Asham in the second period, gave the Flyers to only one point in the standings. Grade: B.
Offense continues to be an issue for the Bruins, but they delivered just under the wire with a power-play goal to force overtime. Boston played another defensive gem, committing only four giveaways on the day. Grade: B-plus.
How cool was it to see No. 4 skate onto the ice and welcome the Bruins players? The reception from the Fenway Park crowd had to give chills to even the most jaded observers. Great touch by the NHL and the Bruins. Grade: A.
Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara: "Once we scored that first goal, we really felt the energy of Fenway. We all felt butterflies and chills on our backs."
Bruins blueliner Derek Morris: "We were trying to yell and scream to each other, but you couldn't hear yourself it was so loud. It was amazing. We wanted to win that game for the fans. It's a fairy-tale ending. It was pretty special."
Not that the NHL can lay claim to having arranged this, but the weather was again golden. The snow during Thursday's practice day provided great optics for the lead-in to the game, and the game itself Friday went off without a hitch. Great ice, great atmosphere, great game. Hard to find much fault with the entire proceedings. Grade: A.