stuhackel
Monday January 2nd, 2012

As expected, the play was physical with sudden momentum swings. (Bob Fina/ZUMAPRESS.com)

By Stu Hackel

6:06 -- Rangers 3, Flyers 2. Final score. Fireworks are shot off, but the majority of the Flyers faithful is leaving disappointed. Ranger fans crowd around the third base dugout and cheer their team as it comes off the ice ...The Flyers now file off and they're getting a smattering of boos in the fine Philadelphia tradition....Mike Rupp is named First Star of the Game for two goals, but Henrik Lundqvist, who goes down the steps to the third base dugout to hearty cheers from the Rangers faithful, gets my star...So that's the game. We'll have more on the whole Winter Classic experience tomorrow in the blog...Thanks for joining us.

6:01 -- Rangers 3, Flyers 2. Penalty shot by Briere with 19.6 seconds left. Ryan McDonagh covered the puck illegally in the Rangers’ crease. And Briere stopped by Lundqvist. That'll be a highlight you'll see alot.

5:57 -- Rangers 3, Flyers 2.  With 1:06 left in regulation, the Flyers need a big push here. Bobrovski was pulled. This was a game the Flyers had seemingly under control in the second period, but whatever John Tortorella told his team -- or whatever the players told themselves -- in the intermission worked...Empty net and a Ranger breaking away is tripped by Timonen with Bobrovski out. but it's ruled that Callahan held the Flyers' stick. A penalty in that situation to the Flyers alone would normally be awarded a goal, but the matching minors negates that. So it's four-on-four... Flyers with the extra skater ... But Lundqvist sprawling forward keeps them at bay with 19.6 seconds left on the clock.

5:53 -- Rangers 3, Flyers 2. Rangers kill the penalty to McDonagh. A quick whistle by the ref goes against Philly as Lundqvist didn't have the puck frozen. A break for New York as their goalie was down and out...under three minutes left in the third....Gaborik shows his superior speed and forces Bobrovski to make a stop. Gaborik, too, can skate through the poor ice conditions unaffected...

5:49 -- Rangers 3, Flyers 2.  A penalty has been called on Ryan McDonagh, prompting cheers from the Flyers fans. This is one of the few times in the third period that they've had something to cheer for. So with jut over five minutes left, Philly gets a chance to even the score...The Flyers, so successful in the second period at establishing their game, have been unable to do it in the third as the Rangers use their speed and quickness around the net to take control.

5:46 -- Rangers 3, Flyers 2. Under six minutes left in the third period. Rangers doing a good job of preventing the Flyers from getting an attack mounted, cutting them down in the neutral zone...Now New York has its forecheck going and it's very effective...They are outshooting the Flyers 15-6. This has been a Rangers period....

5:40 -- Rangers 3, Flyers 2.   Sergei Bobrovsky fumbles the puck and it squirts wide. SI's Brian Cazeneuve says to me, "The Flyers' best goalie this weekend was probably Bernie Parent." .... More repairs to the ice and you can see that it has deteriorated. They're shoving the snow off it again and are doing it at many stoppages... It is soft, despite the cool temps and it's making the puck hard to play...Expect the Flyers to continue pushing the play to the boards and win the battles there while the Rangers will try to keep it in open ice. The problem for New York is that the puck isn't settling down easily for anyone;...

5:31 -- Rangers 3, Flyers 2. The Flyers are called for icing and that might be the first one of the game I don't recall another. And the Rangers score right after the face-off in the Flyers' zone and take the lead. Brad Richards gets it, with assists by Dubinski and Callahan, at 5:21 and there are sections of Rangers fans in the left field stands who are up and yelling. They are by themselves but they are celebrating ... The Flyers call timeout and this is a stunning turn of events. The Flyers have not had anything going in the first minutes of the third period and the Rangers have capitalized...New York has been a very good third period team all season and they are showing that here ...46,967 is the official attendance here and they've been a very interesting crowd...To be honest, I expected the Flyers fans to be louder, especially in the second period when their team was dominating ... Working on the ice yet again here during the stoppage.

5:26 -- Flyers 2, Rangers 2. The Rangers have started well in the third period and the Flyers fans are not very happy. The Ranger fans continue to get louder as their "Let's go Rangers" chants draw scattered boos ...It s a game....

5:24 -- Flyers 2, Rangers 2.   The Rangers tie it up on a shot by Mike Rupp that beat Sergei Bobrovski on the short side from a bad angle...Prust and Mitchell on the assists at 2:41 ...the Rangers are fortunate to be in this game.

5:21 -- Flyers 2, Rangers 1.    Once again there's some work being done oin the ice in the circle to the right of Lundqvist with just over a minute gone in the third period...

5:18 -- Flyers, 2, Rangers 1. Third period underway. More snow flurries...lots of them during the intermission...and just before the period started, the crew was working on that spot on the ice on the blueline near the Rangers' bench...The ice isn't great and it seems as if the Flyers want to keep a lot of the play along the boards where they are winning the battles...That was the key to their second period....

4:56 -- Flyers 2, Rangers 1.    Marian Gaborik and Derek Stepan of New York just miss a two on none in front of Sergei Bobrovski and the Rangers are going to try to end the period with a bit more resolve. Had they scored and tied it, it certainly would not have reflected the run of play...the period ends with the Flyers pressing again...They outshot the Rangers 14-8 and most of New York's chances were late in the period. The Rangers are lucky to be down by only one, and Henrik Lundqvist is the reason why....

4:54 -- Flyers 2, Rangers 1. Of note, Brayden Schenn's goal for the Flyers, the first of the game, was also the first of his NHL career...

4: 52 --  Flyers 2, Rangers 1. Ryan Callahan of the Rangers throws the body and his team starts to get engaged, but just right after that the Flyers go to work and forecheck hard. The stadium is far more alive now with a low roar audible from the upper right field stands. On the ice, bodies flying more than in the first period...Just under two minutes left now in a period that started slowly, but picked up in intensity, mostly by the Flyers. They still have the better of the play and the Rangers' goal was somewhat surprising.

4:50 -- Flyers 2, Rangers 1. Shots in this second period are 12-2 in favor of Philly...But Rupp's goal was a good response by the Rangers, who have been outplayed so far in this period....some light snow starting to fall here...

4:46 -- Flyers 2, Rangers 1. The Rangers answer quickly as Mike Rupp scores and the New York fans are surprisingly loud....Rupp fired a wrist shot from the slot against a partially screened Sergey Bobrovski...Rupp used Flyers defenseman Andrei Meszaros as a screen... after no scoring for 30 minutes, we've had three quick goals....some ice repair now, so play is halted...

4:44 --  Flyers 2, Rangers 0.  Another big hit for the forechecking Flyers, who are outshooting the Rangers 12-1...A three-on-one break, and the Flyers score again...From deep in their own zone, Max Talbot skated up the ice and fed Giroux going hard to the goal, and he beat Lundqvist high for the goal....

4:41 --  Flyers 1, Rangers 0. And all that pressure pays off as the Flyers score Brayden Schenn, who the Flyers got for Mike Richards, scores and the ballpark erupts. That's the loudest it has been for a play in the game...Matt Carle took the shot, and it the rebound came out to Schenn who was alone on the side of the net as Ryan McDonagh tried to stop the shot on the other side ...The Flyers keep up the pressure...

4:38 -- With just over 11 minutes gone in the second period, the Flyers continue to have the better of the play....

4:31 -- The Flyers are outshooting the Rangers 5-1 so far in this period...Henrik Lundqvist, as usual, is keeping New York in the game...The Rangers are on their heels and the crowd is starting to get on them...

4: 25 --   Jaromir Jagr and Claude Giroux have great chemistry today and they just missed a chance...

4:22 -- Back for the second period and the play is not as brisk, but just as I write that the teams trade chances about three minutes in...The Flyers' fans try to get a cheer going, but it's not going anywhere. This big arena with no roof prevents the sound from resonating to some degree, so the chants are just isolated in various sections of the stands.

4:16 --    Big tribute to the Flyers' history between periods here. Bill Clement introduced Flyer greats from the past. Eric Lindros got a huge ovation as he did on Saturday. Then there was a little film about the Broad Street Bullies, who are beloved here as nowhere else (no surprise there) and a few of those players, including Dave Schultz, were introduced. Lauren Hart sang her duet of God Bless America with the video of Kate Smith and the fans stood and cheered. It was decades ago and this group of Flyers is still beloved above all else. They won the Stanley Cup, of course, but more than that, they overcame this city's reputation as the home of losers.

4:05 -- We have no score at the end of the first period. It has been a good pace, with not much hitting, but this place has been loud. As the period ended, a couple of players jousted -- Scott Hartnell and Michael Del Zotto. But nothing came of it. The teams filed off, and the fans started to cheer and boo. but mostly head up the isles to the concourses. The Flyers outshot that Rangers 12-9 and that's pretty reflective of the play so far. I thought Philly took a little time to get going, but once they did, they had the more dangerous chances. The ice seemed to me to be a bit of a factor as far as the players' control of the puck was concerned, but not a major factor. These guys are, of course, amazing.

3:47 --  The first big hit was big. Scott Hartnell of the Flyers on the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh behind the Rangers net. Led to the first little skirmish. But you could hear the hit all over the park, I'm sure. Two players I like alot, Hartnell and McDonagh ...The Giroux-Hartnell chemistry is strong and had it not been for Lundqvist's big save on Timonen, it would have been 1-0 for the home team...Jagr with the best chance of the game. He could skate on cement...

3: 43 --  I'm wondering about the ice a bit. A few times the puck has not settled down for players.. One of the Rangers looked like he lost his edge coming over the blue line. Also, a seam in the boards to Lundqvist's left is causing problems. The Rangers tried to rim the puck around, but it hit the seam and bounced into the face-off circle. Nothing came of it but it might be worth watching that as well. But it doesn't seem the ice is anywhere near as difficult as it was last year in Pittsburgh during the rain.

3:38 --     Flyers fans in the left field upper deck trying to get a big Lets go Flyers chant going, but they're drowned out by boos because the Rangers won't move the puck behind their own net as they wait for teammates to regroup...

3:34 --  The game time temp is 41 degrees, according to Gino who has run the Flyers press box for as long as I can remember...The Philadelphia skyline is quite nice over the center field wall...First TV timeout and the elements seem to be cooperating ...Rangers have outshot Philly 4-3...Flyers had one good cycle before the last break but it didn't come to much...

3:31 -- Rangers and Flyers fans trading "Let's go " chants ... Both teams' big guns have had chances....Claude Giroux was pokechecked by Lundqvist, and Richards and Gaborik have both broken in on the right side but missed the net...The fans in the lower bowl remain standing. All of them. They can't see the ice even that way and are alternating between looking forward and looking at the big screen in left field...

3:30 -- We're underway....Rangers had the better play off the draw...Marc Staal

3:15: With the Roots rockin', the teams have taken the ice. Starting lineups being announced and they have opened windows in the press box so we hear everything. It's also a bit, ah, cool. But that's cool.

(Bob Fina/ZUMAPRESS.com)

This is a party atmosphere; Everyone is having fun, they have their cellphones out taking photos and all that.

The anthems and then we're off.

3 p.m. -- And we're back, but almost no thanks to my cranky ol' laptop. I just strolled around the stadium while the teams were coming on the ice for warm ups, and talking to some fans. The boos for the Rangers and cheers for they Flyers as they made their way out of the dugouts (how strange it feels to write that) and walked to the ice was really loud and impressive. Looking out now from the press box, the seats are predominantly orange -- and the number of fans who have bought both the new Winter Classic jerseys is quite remarkable. There are a good number of Rangers fans here, but they are not going to come close to drowning out the Flyers fans, whose talent for booing is legendary.

Some Flyers fans I talked to believe this game would not have been as popular a draw had the Rangers not been the opponent. One guy said even the Capitals would have had a hard time generating the interest here that the Rangers do. We wrote about the rivalry between these teams last week and the fans here easily reflect that antagonism.

(Dale Zanine-US PRESSWIRE)

A word on the Winter Classic jerseys: I'm not a huge fan of the designs. I had really hoped the Flyers would have used a variation of the old Philly Quakers jersey -- orange with the name spelled out in script and lots of thin black stripes on the sleeves -- and in fact they are being sold around town. I've seen some fans here wearing them. And I hoped the Rangers might wear something like the post-WWII jersey they briefly adopted, with Rangers spelled out in a semi-circle on the chest with the number under it on the front; maybe that in white. These would have been more historic and in keeping with the "going back to the roots" theme that the NHL tries to promote with this game. My guess is that the Flyers didn't want to abandon their logo. The tapered Rangers logo is one they actually used early in the franchise's history, so that one is true to the team's history.

The ball park is almost completely filled. A few scattered seats are empty, but that's it. The fans are loud, although in the press box we can't hear them because the windows are closed.

This seat is as far away from the rink as I've ever sat for an NHL game. But we can see the whole ice, except for right along the near boards. There are many, many more people who have a much worse view, especially in the lower level. They are all standing.

The ice is clear, the zamboni had finished and the crew is working on some wet spots along the blue line. Back later.

1 p.m. Eastern time -- Hello, hockey fans around the world.  We're coming to you live from the City of Brotherly love on an ancient laptop with no spellcheck,  lots of caffeine and not a lot of sleep. Yes, it's the Winter Classic outdoor matchup between two great NHL rivals, the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. We'll do our best to give you a sense of what this big event is like from the inside -- not quite as inside as HBO's 24/7, but hopefully a bit more than you might get from the game telecast.

I spoke with people from the Flyers organization, such as team historian Bruce "Scoop" Cooper, and the NHL who were here for the Alumni game on Saturday, and they were stunned by how charged the atmosphere was inside the Phillies' ballpark, with fans filling every seat and standing along the top row in the upper deck, a huge number of them wearing Flyers apparel (and some even Rangers apparel) and, they say, it made for a tremendous atmosphere.

Now, I'm a guy who grew up watching Original Six hockey in arenas that didn't even play music when play stopped. The organ would only be engaged between periods. And in many ways, I still prefer that -- the fewer distractions to the game, the better. But that's a lifetime ago, maybe a few lifetimes ago, and things change. An NHL game like this is easily the biggest change of all.

While some might not agree that this event is everything it's pumped up to be and does not represent a return to the game's roots  (my SI.com colleague Michael Farber eloquently expresses that point of view in this piece), I've never attended a Winter Classic, so I want to see this phenomenon for myself.

I bumped into my friend Kenny Albert, the Rangers' radio announcer a few minutes ago and he reminded me of the days in the mid-80s when he played and I coached the NYU team and we practiced and played some games outdoors. "This is a long way from that," he said. And he's right.

There's no doubt that Michael Farber is right, too. These are not exactly return-to-the-origin-of-the-game contests, but packaged events and not the great game on the pond that some of us grew up playing. On the other hand, they're not the average NHL game, either. The Winter Classic and Canada's Heritage Classic are something more, and they are as contemporary as any development in the post-lockout NHL.

So those are some preliminary thoughts not related at all to the Rangers vs. Flyers game that will take place here at 3 p.m.. That game itself has some meaning apart from what this day means for hockey's culture. The Rangers lead the Eastern Conference, something few people would have expected at the season's start. The Flyers are two points behind New York. The ice should be good here as the temps are supposed to drop and clouds will keep the players from getting sun-glared to death. Everyone is expecting a good game and for some, that's really all that matters.

OK, we'll be back to you sometime soon. Keep checking back. I'm gonna grab lunch, maybe take a walk around the ballpark. Meanwhile, here's some of my favorite Philly music, great songs that people in this city know, but not too many who are not from here will recognize.

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