ST. LOUIS — Corey Crawford said the ice was “pretty bad.” Niklas Hjalmarsson said it was better than the indoor ice at Carolina’s PNC Arena. Trevor van Riemsdyk said none of it mattered.
“Both teams are playing in the same elements,” van Riemsdyk said following the Blackhawks’ 4-1 loss in a rainy Winter Classic at Busch Stadium. “It’s not like it was just raining on our end, or just raining on them. You can notice it when it rains, obviously the ice feels a little different. But it’s nothing that affected us too much, I don’t think.”
Five hours before the scheduled noon puck drop, the NHL announced that it was sticking with that original start time. But the league also laid out a whole bunch of bizarre scenarios. The game had to go two full periods to be deemed official, otherwise they would try again on Tuesday. If it couldn’t be played by Tuesday night, it would be rescheduled indoors at Scottrade Center at a later date. And in a fascinating possibility, if the game was official, but unfinished, and tied, each team would have earned one point, and a pregame shootout at the United Center on Feb. 26 would have decided the extra point.
But the game went off on time, and without a hitch. Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said the rain was a bit of a factor early, with little puddles affecting play, but that it let up in the second period and everything froze over.
“I don’t think anyone’s really complaining about the conditions too much,” Patrick Kane said. “The ice was fine.”
Said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock: “It was way better than anybody thought. And I think the ice felt heavy, so the shifts were short. You were looking at 25, 30 second shifts. That fits us, too.”
“He’s been probably our best player so far this year, and [Scott Darling], too,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We’re spoiled with having great goaltending. It makes it extra tough sometimes, when you feel like maybe you don’t have his back sometimes, when he had your back.”
“I went there and the guy suggested a sombrero, and I told the guy, ‘I’m round enough as it is,’” Hitchcock said. “Wo we settled on a navy fedora and the Stetson style.”