Updated: Feb 23, 2021
Sorry for the absence, people! There is a lot of news going around the league today, and it seemed like the perfect day to drop a new article. We'll be going over how the long-awaited NHL at Lake Tahoe games went, and the newest controversy surround New York Rangers star, Artemi Panarin.
NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe game 1, Colorado Avalanche 3, Vegas Golden Knights 2
The long awaited NHL at Lake Tahoe games kicked off on Saturday, February 20th, and everything from the reverse-retro uniforms donned by each team, to the Sierra Nevada landscape draped in the background was as gorgeous as advertised. The game of hockey went back to it's roots; five guys on each side chasing the old frozen biscuit around on a lake.
The NHL is no stranger to outdoor games. Every year on New Years Day the league hosts the Winter Classic, and multiple times throughout the year teams compete in the Stadium Series. Some of the most iconic sports venues across the country have hosted these events. From Fenway Park to Soldier Field, the NHL has (almost) mastered the art of bringing their game outdoors. More on the almost part later.
The Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche broke the ice (literally) on Saturday afternoon. Colorado's Samuel Girard opened up the scoring when he rifled a wrist shot passed Vegas' goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury 2:38 into the first to put Colorado ahead by one. The rest of the first period was relatively quiet, and that's the last we'd hear from these two teams for the next nine hours.
A lot of questions surrounded the afternoon start of these games. While there was snow on the ground, and fans could be seen huddling around bonfires, the sun was still powerful as ever. During the first intermission, the league consulted with both teams on the condition of the ice after it had started to soften in some spots, making for a major safety hazard. Players from both sides and the league decided that postponing the game until later that night was the best course of action.
While this game was nice treat to the players and the fans, let's call a spade a spade... These games were an attempt to draw ratings and grow the game, and it worked for the most part! I have many friends who aren't hockey fans, and only watched the game because of the setting that it took place in. I even had a friend text me late on Sunday night and tell me that the Bruins vs. Flyers game was showing him "how much fun watching hockey is," and that the action is "very back and forth and face paced, you never know what is going to happen next." So yes, while the league succeeded at introducing new fans to the game, it also came to a screeching halt.
The game between Vegas and Colorado wasn't resumed until midnight eastern time, and even me, one of the most diehard hockey fans out there, wasn't able to stay up to see the game through. One has to wonder how many potential new fans were lost to the late re-start.
The game was tight right up until the final moments, as the Colorado Avalanche narrowly squeaked away with a 3-2 victory.
NHL Outdoors at Lake Tahoe game 2, Boston Bruins 7, Philadelphia Flyers 3
Sunday nights game between the Bruins and Flyers went a lot smoother than the previous night, unless you are a Flyers fan. The first period of this game was full of action, as four goals were scored between the two teams. Boston's David Pastrnak scored the first goal of the game, then Philadelphia took a 2-1 lead off of back-to-back goals from Joel Farabee and Sean Couturier. Charlie McAvoy scored his second goal of the season for Boston with five minutes left in the first, and both teams headed to their locker rooms knotted at two.
It was all Bruins from there on out, and when I say Bruins I mean David Pastrnak. The Bruins scored four unanswered goals in the second period, from Pastrnak, Charlie Coyle, Trent Frederic, and Nick Ritchie. James van Riemsdyk answered back early in the third period with a goal of his own, cutting the Bruins lead in half at 6-3. Not too long after, however, David Pastrnak scored his third goal of the game, shutting down any thoughts the Flyers had at a comeback. It was a hat trick for Pastrnak, and the Bruins head back to Boston with a dominant and important win over another East Division contender.
All in all, I think it was a successful weekend, and I give the NHL an A- for the event!
New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin takes leave of absence after Russian hit piece surfaces
Artemi Panarin has not been shy when it comes to his criticisms of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and it all came to a head on Monday morning when a report surfaced that the Rangers star allegedly assaulted an 18 year old woman in Russia back in 2011. Artemi Panarin has denied the allegations, and the New York Rangers organization suggests that the allegations are payback for Panarin's criticisms of Putin, and an intimidation tactic by the Russian government. Panarin's agent, Paul Theofanous, told the New York Post on Monday morning "I unequivocally, categorically deny all of these false allegations coming out of Russia about Artemi. This is false.”
The allegations surfaced just a few weeks after Panarin went public with his support of Russian opposition leader and Putin critic, Alexei Navalny. Posting on both his Instagram and Twitter "Freedom for Navalny" with a photo of Alexei and his family.
In a 2019 interview with Russian journalist Alexander Golovin, Panarin slammed Putin and his ideals, making Panarin one of the first high-profile Russian athletes to speak out against Putin, something that many Russian athletes before him feared to do, at the cost of being exiled from the country.
It is not clear just how long Panarin will be absent from the team. Hockey Twitter has been on full alert today, and many fans of rival teams have come out in support of Panarin and the Rangers, helping make the hashtag #FreePanarin reach the trending page.
The New York Rangers released a very strongly worded statement later Monday morning, calling the story fabricated in support of Panarin.
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