It’s going to be a spectacle that we haven’t seen in the NHL since the beginning of 2020, and there has been a lot that has transpired since then. It’ll be great to see this massive event take place with two teams who are definite contenders for the Stanley Cup and the Central Division title.
The Blues Change of Style from Last Season
The Blues and Wild played each other a grand total of eight times last season, but the Blues have evolved their style since then, in many ways. Both of these teams are much more similar this season than they were last season.
The Blues are 18-9-5 with 41 points, while the Wild are 19-9-2 with 40 points, so both of these teams are good. The Blues have played two more games than the Wild, which is the biggest reason why they lead the Central Division. The biggest reason for the Blues’ success has been speed and depth, in my view. They have had 29 different skaters this season and five goaltenders, so those numbers are crazy given the history of the league. Clearly, this is a different time in the NHL than ever before, but those numbers are still shocking. Comparatively, the Wild have had 26 different skaters and two goaltenders, being one of the teams with no goaltending issues.
As for the Blues’ change of style, they are relying much more on youth than ever before, with Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou being two of their most consistent players. Other players like Pavel Buchnevich and Vladimir Tarasenko have been tremendous, as they’ve thrived in this system. I’m interested to see how the Blues improved speed and transition game works against a Wild team that is eerily similar.
The Unbelievably Frigid Temperatures
The weather in Minneapolis on Saturday night is going to be incredibly cold. As for the Fahrenheit temperature, it’s likely to be around minus-21 when the puck drops, which is comfortably 53 degrees below freezing. This is hockey weather and more, and it’s safe to say that the NHL won’t have the same ice issues they had at Lake Tahoe in their previous outdoor game.
They’ll still have issues with the ice and pucks with this weather being as cold as it is, but warmth won’t be an issue for the ice. This temperature is actually far less optimal for the puck and ice than you’d expect. This could be the coldest outdoor game in the history of the NHL, and it’ll be a sight to behold.
The Overall Scene
When I say that the scene of the Winter Classic is something to watch, it’s about everything. The atmosphere, the crowd, the fantastic uniforms, and much more.
The capacity for this event is likely to be 40,000, as Target Field is nowhere near the size of the Cotton Bowl in Texas, where the 2020 Winter Classic took place. This atmosphere will still be incredible because it’s the first massive outdoor event for the league since that 2020 one in Texas.
The best part about this entire thing for me is the fact that these are two great teams that are clear-cut contenders. It’s great that we have two teams who are familiar with each other and have tons of talent in all phases, which hasn’t always been the case for these types of games.
As for who the players to watch for this game, let’s focus on speed. For Minnesota, that’s young superstar and 2020-21 Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov. He’s picked up where he left off with 36 points in 30 games this season, leading his team. For the Blues, it has to be Kyrou, who has tallied 28 points in 28 games and has electrifying speed. Sit back and relax, enjoy this glorious hockey spectacle, and ring in the New Year from Minneapolis.
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Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.