It’s Dan Mount and I’m here with another edition of the Three Periods blog. It’s almost 2016, and I want to take a look at a few things that are going on in the world of hockey this time of the year.
We’ve gotten through the NHL’s Christmas break (which I will say good things about) and we’re onto two things that I really enjoy this time of year. I’ll talk about the Winter Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. and the ongoing World Junior Championships in Helsinki, Finland.
Let’s get to it.
Sports are usually a busy this time of the year with all of the NFL, NBA and college football bowl games going on. The NBA has claimed Christmas Day with its slate of games, so that means the NHL takes a step back and lets their players have family time from Dec. 23-26. Players aren’t even allowed into the arena and practice facilities during that time.
The players are gone for a good chunk of the season and this family time allows them to be with their loved ones before the grind of the season picks back up. The NHL has toyed with the idea of having a bye week for each team in the 2016-17 season, but I like the idea of Christmas being the bye week for NHL squads.
There’s still plenty of hockey for people during the holiday season and the showcase of that is the upcoming Winter Classic between the old rival of Montreal and Boston. The game will be at Gillette Stadium, which is the home of the New England Patriots.
The game will still have some of the vitriol to it even with Boston instigator Brad Marchand being suspended for three games after clipping Ottawa Senators forward Mark Borowiecki earlier in the week. Both teams still hate each other, so I expect some nastiness.
The Habs are limping into the game after a historically bad December. This is not the same team that dominated the first two months of the season. The Canadiens seem lost without Carey Price, and hope to get him back soon. Montreal also has trouble scoring.
Boston has been inconsistent, but can steal a game thanks to its talented goalie Tuukka Rask. The B’s will want to “defend home ice” and get the win. It will be an interesting game on Friday.
However, there’s one other event that hockey fans have been enjoying this Christmas season, and that’s the World Junior Championships in Finland.
The event is a showcase for the best and brightest future stars under the age of 20. Many of these youngsters have been drafted or will be selected by an NHL club in the next year. It’s also a chance to see good international competition in a non-Olympic setting.
The games get intense, but usually pretty clean with few incidents. This is the tournament you want to see if you’d like to take a look at the future of hockey.
That’s it for this week. I hope everyone has a happy and safe 2016. Take care, everyone.
Dan Mount is a producer for Spadora on Sports. He’s also a writer for NHL on the Ice and is the Nashville Predators beat reporter for The Hockey Writers. He can be found on Twitter @DanMountSports.