Thoughts on Stadium Series Colorado

Having been to a bunch of outdoor hockey games now, it’s hard for me not to compare them to see where Stadium Series Colorado falls.

Three big things jumped out at me right off the bat in Denver.

The first was that the ice surface looked fantastic under the lights and clear dark sky. We saw that for the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park, as well as the game there between the Griffins and Marlies, and way back at the Cold War in Spartan Stadium.

The overcast afternoons of the Wings’ previous Winter Classic appearances didn’t provide for the same contrast (though the 2014 Winter Classic was also hampered by being in the middle of a snowstorm).

Something that I touched on a lot via Twitter over the weekend was that both the alumni game and the Stadium Series game proper felt more like the Avalanche home game they were than the 2014 Winter Classic felt like a Red Wings home game. The in-game video was very Avs-centric and the PA announcer did (what appears to be) the typical Colorado cheerleading.

I traded Tweets with Red Wings’ PA announcer Erich Freiny, who said that the NHL instructed him to call the Winter Classic like a home game. Maybe it was the presence of so many Maple Leafs fans in Ann Arbor that made it feel less like a home game, or maybe the Detroit PA routines are just less obnoxious (you’ve never heard Freiny [or Budd Lynch before him] say “Woohooo!” after a Red Wings goal). Whatever the reason, the difference was undeniable.

Lastly, it’s hard not to touch on the weather. In 2009, the Red Wings played at Chicago in freezing conditions. In 2014, Ann Arbor was even colder and had feet of snow dropped on it. Denver was sunny and 70ish for the weekend. It felt more like playoff weather than mid-season.

Something I’d have loved to see different: The Avalanche in blue. After the Wings and Leafs did a color-on-color matchup in 2014, I think blue vs. red would have looked fantastic in Denver. Swap white and blue on the Avs’ Stadium Series jersey template and it works.

I have to mention the fake snowstorm. It didn’t impact play but it was hilarious to see. NHL employees scrambled to secure the cotton batting at field-level while fans tried to grab it out of the sky.

Red Wings Rally for Stadium Series Win

The Detroit Red Wings rallied from down 2-1 entering the third period on Saturday for a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche in their Stadium Series matchup at Denver’s Coors Field.

Gustav Nyquist‘s scored just 1:27 into the third period. Nyquist lifted a no-look backhander from the left faceoff circle past Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov to tie the game, 2-2.

With 6:32 left in the period, Darren Helm fed Justin Abdelkader from behind the goal for a quick shot from the side of the crease past Varlamov for a 3-2 lead, Detroit’s second of the night.

The lead was short-lived, as Alex Tanguay blasted home a rebound over sprawling Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek just 14 seconds later.

The game seemed to be headed to overtime until Brad Richards banged the rebound of a Niklas Kronwall shot from the point off Varlamov’s pad, through the air, and into the net for a 4-3 win.

Helm added an empty-net goal to wrap up the game’s scoring.

Tomas Tatar had opened things up 5:07 into the first period. After a brief scramble around the side of the net, Tatar collected the puck and snapped a shot from the bottom of the left circle through a screen by Nyqyust,

Nathan MacKinnon tied things up at 7:44 of the period, rifling a shot from the left wing past Mrazek on a rush.

With 5:22 remaining in the first, Tyson Barrie lifted a shot over Mrazek to make it 2-1. The Red Wings challenged the goal, saying Carl Soderberg interfered with Mrazek, but the call stood.

The Red Wings went scoreless on five power play tries while the Avalanche didn’t score on either of their chances with the man-advantage.

Mrazek finished the night with 24 saves on 27 shots. Varlamov stopped 23 of 27 chances.

Detroit’s healthy scratches were Brendan Smith and Teemu Pulkkinen… The game was briefly interrupted in the third period as wind lifted fake snow into the air, dumping some of it onto the playing surface.

Red Wings Trade Kindl to Panthers

The Detroit Red Wings traded defenseman Jakub Kindl to the Florida Panthers on Saturday.

Detroit will retain 15 percent of Kindl’s salary and receive a sixth round draft pick in 2017.

Kindl, the Red Wings’ first-round draft pick (19th overall) in 2005, has bounced between Detroit and the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins this season.

In 273 career games with the Red Wings, Kindl had 16 goals and 52 assists for 68 points.

The move clears roughly $2 million from the Red Wings’ salary cap over the next two seasons.

Thoughts on the Red Wings – Avalanche Alumni Game

If you were following DetroitHockey.Net on Twitter during the Red Wings – Avalanche alumni game at Coors Field (before my phone battery died on me), you could probably see the narrative I found most interesting about the event. It’s something I commented on when the ticket sale for this game was announced and when the rumor that the Red Wings might be visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs for an outdoor game last year broke.

When Detroit hosted their outdoor game, half the stadium was reserved for Toronto fans. The scoreboard videos pandered to each fanbase. Merchandise stands had items representing both teams. Even in Detroit at the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park, the rivalry was celebrated rather than the individual teams. It was treated much as a neutral-site game.

But come out to Colorado and it is very much an Avalanche home game. The video about the rivalry consisted mostly of Colorado goals and Patrick Roy saves. There was no clip of Claude Lemieux turtling, Roy left bloodied at the hands of Mike Vernon, or his Statue of Liberty save.

So it’s frustrating to have been to Detroit’s “home” game and seen extra effort made to make the visitors feel welcome, only to not have it happen when the tables are turned. Maybe the next time the Red Wings host one of these, they’ll get to keep it as a home game.

As for the game itself, I was shocked to see the final shot totals. Both Patrick Roy and Craig Billington made some really solid saves for the Avalanche but overall it felt like the Red Wings never got anything going. By shot totals, it seems like the goalies stole the show. I never got the feeling that Detroit was pressuring that much, though.

I did get the feeling that the Avalanche simply cared more. There were quite a few times a Colorado defender laid out to block a shot or a pass and it doesn’t seem like that happened as much in the Detroit end. The feeling I couldn’t shake throughout the game was that the Red Wings were just having fun and the Avalanche were trying to win.

I took a bunch of photos, mostly during warm-ups, and will aim to have those on the site next week.

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