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What We Learned: NHL outdoor games reach point of tedious excess

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Between 2008 and the end of this season, the NHL will have put on 12 outdoor games, which isn't a big deal in and of itself. It's hyper-oversaturation of the market and this is the last time they're going to be able to reasonably attempt more than one or two in a season.

Again, this is the cost of doing business in this league: You have to be prepared to be annoyed by these things. But also again, you have to keep in mind that fans are getting awfully sick of this nonsense. They're not selling a lot of tickets in LA, and had to cut prices as a consequence. The Heritage Classic is drawing the ire of many in Vancouver because the NHL-set prices are, shall we say, prohibitive. No one seems particularly interested in going to the Islanders/Rangers game at Yankee Stadium.

But with 12 outdoor games in seven seasons, we are now living in a world in which 16 of the league's 30 teams (the Ducks, Bruins, Sabres, Flames, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Kings, Canadiens, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Senators, Flyers, Penguins, Maple Leafs, Canucks, and Capitals) have played in just such an event. If you really want, you can add the Oilers' 2003 Heritage Classic game to the mix to bump you up to 17. Fun!

But none of that is going to stop everyone from using adjectives like “unique” to describe each and every one of these boring, rotten games. They're anything but at this point. Especially because, in addition to the six NHL outdoor games being played over the next few months, there will also have been 18 more such games between AHL, NCAA Division 1 and major junior events. The college game I went to at Fenway Park this weekend — the first of five there over the next few weeks — drew less than 4,000 people. It was sad.

Given how often this kind of thing happens at this point, half the players in the league these days have probably participated in at least one outdoor game in their playing careers, becoming so common as they are at all of the higher levels of the sport. They've answered the same dumb-ass questions every single time and the answers don't change.

A partial list of things we now no longer need to hear about these kinds of contests includes: Talk About The Experience (it's so great and special!), whether they played outdoors as kids (a little and it was fun!) what's different about these games versus a regular one in an arena (a lot!), the quality of the ice (good! (except actually it is bad)), how far away the fans are (very!), how cold it is (also very!), whether the players were hoping for snow (they were, a little bit!), if it's cool to play on a baseball/football field (it is, because I've been here for a baseball/football game before so it's a little surreal!), if it's hard for goalies to see the puck (a little bit!), if the puck was bouncing more than usual (it was!), and how coaches dress (funny and old timey!).

Any story you try to read about any of the above subjects is more offensive, at this point, than a player saying they just need to stick to their game plans and go to the hard areas of the ice.

Any articles on these subjects over the next two or three months could be so seamlessly cut-and-pasted with players' names and hometowns that you could very easily program a computer to do it. Sometimes, you'll even get the outlier like, “Player X grew up in Florida and never played outside so this is all new and exciting.” It's not, of course, but that's what you're going to see. The one about Robyn Regehr — who was born in Brazil!!! — should be particularly fascinating.

One imagines that the ratings for this round of outdoor games are going to be in the toilet, even as the league touts the 107,000 seats it sold in Ann Arbor, which is legitimately great for getting the salary cap back to a reasonable level instead of the somewhat arbitrary number assigned by the owners for this season. That seems to have been all they were designed for, and in the end probably all they're going to be good for.

Having to sit through all this nonsense is hard enough on neutral fans as it is without the boring narratives. They'll probably watch at first because a game at the Big House remains a curiosity, but by March, when we're on Nos. 5 and 6, and a series of games between the Rangers, Devils, and Islanders (aesthetic calamities, all) have drained everyone of whatever piddling enthusiasm might have remained.

All anyone can ask is that the hockey world doesn't make it more difficult to bear by acting like playing an NHL game outside is anything other than a common occurrence.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: With a win over the Coyotes on Saturday, the Ducks stretched their win streak to 10 games, which is impressive in and of itself. But the fact that they did that without scoring a single power play goal in the final eight of those games is pretty remarkable too.

Boston Bruins: The Bruins lost Dennis Seidenberg for the season with a torn ACL and MCL, and with Zdeno Chara out on Saturday, it looked very much like an AHL defense in losing 4-3 to the Senators. Matt Bartkowski played almost 23 minutes, just for example.

Buffalo Sabres: This is a goal by John Scott. Really.

Calgary Flames: Here's a graph of Sean Monahan's rolling corsi percentage over the last 10 games. It's at 25.7 percent. Because the Flames keep playing him. Even though he has a broken foot. And was hopelessly outmatched by actual NHL talent even when he was healthy. For reference of how bad a 25.7 percent corsi percentage is, John Scott's so far this season is 37.1.

Carolina Hurricanes: Last night, Mike Komisarek finally got a chance to play against the Leafs after they bought him out. This article served as a helpful reminder that Mike Komisarek is still in the National Hockey League. He entered last night with six shots on goal and no points in 11 games this season.

Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp had a hat trick and an assist on Friday, which was his birthday. It was only the second time he even played on Dec. 27 in his NHL career, and the first time he scored.

Colorado Avalanche: Boo hoo it's hard to travel in the NHL. Boo hoo hoo.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Brandon Dubinsky is lucky Artem Anisimov was there to clean up the mess he made of this 2-on-1. You gotta get some elevation on that wide-open shot, big dawg.

Dallas Stars: Lindy Ruff has the Stars at 12th in the league in blocked shots, up from 19th last year. But they also allow more shots per game (32.7 from 31.6). So keep blockin' 'em, gang.

Detroit Red Wings: Could Jimmy Howard finally be back tonight? There's no way to know yet. It must be so fun to be Mike Babcock these days.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oil were outshot 25-7 in the final two periods of Saturday's home game with the Flyers and Ilya Bryzgalov threw his stick which shows he's a big weird baby just like all those Flyers writers have said all along.

Florida Panthers: It was a real nice time we all had pretending the Panthers were any good at all for a minute there. Now, it's back to reality.

Los Angeles Kings: What a freakin' finish in Nashville on Saturday. Mike Fisher scores at 16:42 to give the Preds a 2-1 lead. Jeff Carter scores with the goalie pulled and 37 seconds on the clock to tie it. Fisher scores again 10 seconds later to win it. Darryl Sutter was not happy.

Minnesota Wild: Zach Parise is on the IR with a fractured foot and is out four to six weeks. GM Chuck Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo are both Canadian. This cannot be a coincidence so close to the Olympics. I'm watching you, Minnesota. We must protect Ryan Suter at all costs.

Montreal Canadiens: Max Pacioretty became a dad on Christmas Eve. That's the way to put your holiday break to good use, but let's hope that he doesn't screw that little boy on “birthday/Christmas” presents. That's the worst thing for any kid.

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: Watch Seth Jones's reaction on Fisher's game-winner in the bottom of your screen. What a nice young man.

New Jersey Devils: Now is your chance to look deeper into a Devils/Islanders game than you ever thought would have been reasonable.

New York Islanders: John Tavares only ended up missing one game but did have his games-played streak of 246 snapped. The thought of the Islanders missing Tavares for any extended period is horrifying.

New York Rangers: Ryan Callahan is still set for a mid-January return. Okay cool. Good.

Ottawa Senators: Bobby Ryan has 18 goals this season, including Saturday's impressive game-winner, but still can't seem to get more than 17 minutes a game on a lot of nights. What's that all about?

Philadelphia Flyers: Wayne Simmonds is the only Flyer ever to have three straight multi-goal games. Seems like that can't be right, but here we are.

Phoenix Coyotes: Big-time goalscorer David Moss. Five goals this year, two of them on Friday. He's lights out. Sure thing.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin is practicing again (though no one's allowed to touch him), but then they also placed him on the IR yesterday. His return will really help the Pens start winning after all these injuries. Oh wait they've been doing it anyway.

San Jose Sharks: Joe Pavelski shot the hell out of this puck.

St. Louis Blues: Alex Steen is out indefinitely with a concussion. Congratulations Alex Ovechkin on your Rocket Richard.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Here's a cool look at how Marty St. Louis has changed his game with Steven Stamkos out. It includes the great quote, “I don't know if I changed my game.” Thanks Marty. Very helpful.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Tyler Bozak was right back on the first line in his return to the lineup. Because why wouldn't you want to get him slotted right back in there? Especially if you hate Nazem Kadri.

Vancouver Canucks: Over the weekend the Canucks signed OHL overager Dane Fox, who has 41 goals in 35 games for Erie so far this season. This one guy on Twitter told literally everyone on the Canucks that they should do it, so I bet he's really happy. That one guy, I mean. And Dane Fox also.

Washington Capitals: Philipp Grubauer has a name that perpetually appears to be spelled incorrectly, but his stats are really good so that's all that matters. Big year for rookie backup goalies whose presence is necessitated by injury.

Winnipeg Jets: Claude Noel refuses to blame Ondrej Pavelec for the Jets' problems of late but his save percentage in December is .863, so he's just plain awful. Eight sixty three. You'd do better with your eyes closed.

Play of the Weekend

This is a goal scored by Western Michigan's Josh Pitt in the final minute of overtime against No. 3 Michigan. How do the Wolverines let this happen?

Gold Star Award

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In addition to his 3-1-4 performance on Friday, Patrick Sharp also added another goal in a loss to St. Louis so I guess he had a good weekend.

Minus of the Weekend

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Okay another cool stat about Ondrej Pavelec is his save percentage against the Western Conference this season is .895 and that is really bad. I'm sure it's all his teammates' fault though.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “dannyboy8920” wants a shakeup.

To Winnipeg: Marchand + Boychuk + Kelly + Khokhlachev + Morrow + 1st
To Boston: Kane + Byfuglien + O'Dell + Olsen + Sol

Signoff

I have a complicated relationship with zombies. They’re dangerous, but I love their swagger.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

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