Jonathan Bernier battled the elements in the Winter Classic and did so in style.
The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender made an NHL outdoor-game-record 41 saves and then two more in the shootout to beat the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout. That eclipsed Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames making 39 in the 2011 Heritage Classic.
Bernier did it all sporting a toque over his mask.
“I felt obviously with the holes that we get on the helmet (the toque) is actually keeping me warm,” he said. “And I thought it looked good.”
Bernier looked good despite poor visibility and snow that made his life difficult. The Red Wings put him under siege early, but he made 13 first-period saves to keep the game scoreless.
“I thought it was pretty bad,” Bernier said of the visibility. “The second period was probably the worst with the wind coming at us, but the snow wasn’t as bad.”
Bernier didn’t appear to be bothered by any of that. Maybe some of that was resourcefulness, as he kept heat packs in his pads to warm his hands.
In terms of his play, Bernier is hot right now. In four consecutive starts, he has stopped 156 of the 164 shots he has faced, and there seems to be no reason the Leafs don’t give him the nod Saturday against the New York Rangers.
Coach Randy Carlyle said that “there’s never an easy decision” in goal between Bernier and James Reimer. But right now it’s Bernier’s net.
“Right now Johnny is on a little bit of a run, and as long as he continues to provide us with the level of goaltending he has, it would be foolish for us to look another direction,” Carlyle said.
IS IT A RECORD?
The NHL announced an attendance of 105,491 at Michigan Stadium, which would be the most people to ever watch a hockey game.
But the Guinness Book of World Records has not yet certified that this Winter Classic actually beat the “Big Chill” game at the same building in 2010, which officially had 104,173 in attendance.
“We know we sold 105,000-plus tickets, and we also suspect there were some no-shows because we heard stories of people taking more than 2 1/2 hours to get here from downtown Detroit because of the road conditions,” commissioner Gary Bettman said.
“So I don’t know if we set the official Guinness attendance record, but I know we set our own record because this was the most well-attended game that we’ve ever had. And based on tickets sold we should have, but since people were still arriving in the second period, it’s hard to know.”
Snow made road conditions hazardous, and traffic was a significant problem before and after the game. NHL COO John Collins estimated that 40,000 tickets were sold to Canadian residents, and many visitors were staying in Detroit rather than Ann Arbor.
At 105,491, the NHL shattered its own attendance record of 71,217, set at the first Winter Classic in Buffalo in 2008.
ALFREDSSON SCORES ON LEAFS AGAIN
Nobody scores on the Leafs quite like Daniel Alfredsson. The former Ottawa Senators captain scored his 34th career goal against Toronto in the Winter Classic.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most of any active player against the Leafs. Alfredsson now has 73 points in 82 career games against them.
Alfredsson was questionable to play Wednesday because of back spasms that caused him to miss Monday’s game at the Nashville Predators. He was in the lineup and enjoyed soaking up the scene.
“It was unbelievable, just to see all the people, the outdoor rink, the temperature was pretty much perfect,” Alfredsson said. “Overall, I thought it was an incredible experience.”
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