Hot and not
Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild
Dubnyk stopped 31 of 32 shots in a 6-1 win against the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks in the league’s latest outdoor game. Dubnyk has now won three straight starts, and the Wild have won four straight overall.
Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Staal’s offensive funk continued in a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, in which Staal finished minus-2 and lost 11 of 17 faceoffs. He has now gone 12 games without a goal and has just two assists in that span.
Are outdoor games becoming too routine?
@ESPN_Burnside: Just getting ready to depart the Twin Cities after the Stadium Series game between the Wild and Blackhawks, and next weekend we’ll be in Denver for the Detroit Red Wings–Colorado Avalanche outdoor clash at Coors Field. What we don’t know for sure is where next year’s Winter Classic will be played, part of NHL’s series of outdoor games, it’s believed that St. Louis is the clubhouse leader to host their first outdoor game with — wait for it –. Chicago playing the visitor once again. That would make four straight years with an outdoor game for the Blackhawks and their fifth outdoor match in total, a testament to the traveling power of their fan base and the marquee status the franchise holds around the NHL. Hard to argue the natural rivalry between the Hawks and Blues, just as it was hard to argue Chicago-Minnesota given that the two have faced each other in the playoffs in three straight seasons. But you see the dilemma facing the NHL with these events. They need to have drawing power to fill venues that hold two and three times the capacity of your normal NHL rink, but face criticism when the same teams are tabbed for these games. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, both multiple outdoor participants, are expected to play an outdoor game next season. And why not? Wherever they play the games, tickets will or should go like hotcakes. But where does this leave the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team well on its way to tanking into a top draft pick, but on the eve of celebrating its 100th anniversary? Throw in other major events in Toronto next fall/winter, and it’s a tough call.
@CraigCustance: I thought that perhaps the creation of the Stadium Series would give the league a little more flexibility to spread the outdoor love around, but that hasn’t really materialized. As fun as Sunday’s game was, wouldn’t it have been a little more fun to have the Wild play against the Dallas Stars, the franchise that left Minnesota after the 1992-93 season? The alumni game wouldn’t have been as good and, really, those alumni games are becoming just as good as the main event. Still, that this one didn’t sell out is a red flag for me. The creation of the Stadium Series wasn’t ever done to have the same national platform as the Winter Classic enjoys on New Year’s day, but it was supposed to have a great an impact locally, and when these games stop selling out it’s a sign that the local impact isn’t as big as you’d want. I’ve always been a proponent of the outdoor games, but maybe it’s time to scale back and create a little more demand for them once again.
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: Craig, you beat me to it, I’m getting outdoor-game fatigue now. At least if the Winter Classic does indeed end up in St. Louis next season, there will be some newness to it as a first-time host, and that’s important. Still, I was watching the game on Sunday, and as soon as Minnesota took a comfortable lead I turned elsewhere. Perhaps I’m jaded because I’ve worked a number of these outdoor games, and Montreal-Boston this year was admittedly a lot of fun at Gillette Stadium, but I’m just not feeling it anymore. I think the league needs to be really careful how many of these are staged every season.
@ESPNJoeyMac: Oh, I’m feeling it, guys. I really enjoy the outdoor games and love the big venues. The Winter Classic at Busch Stadium next New Year’s Day would be an amazing experience. I have no problem seeing the same teams playing outdoors each season and I’m also for more teams getting involved, so if that means more outdoors games then I’m all for it. Even though the Maple Leafs are struggling in the midst of a rebuild, Toronto should be awarded an outdoor game in 2017. I believe Scotty suggested more outdoor games for the league’s 100th anniversary too, right? The fans love it and they keep showing up, so keep ’em coming.
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