Hockey New Year: Sharks Beat 'Nucks, Winter Classic

Great news right now. The Sharks beat the team that has become probably their biggest rival: the Vancouver Canucks. It was an extremely close contest, and Michael Handzus was the only shooter to score to beat Luongo and the Canucks. Luongo played well when it mattered and avoided the inconsistencies that have made some question his place as Vancouver's starting goaltender. Niemi had a stellar game himself and improved to 16-7-4 on the season.

There has been a lot of speculation on trades (mostly concerning Niittymaki, Greiss, and Havlat). I don't see any trades coming soon, but if the Sharks start to skid a deal at the deadline is certainly not out of the question.

*Winter Classic*

I hope all hockey fans tuned into yesterday's Winter Classic. The 5th annual event proved to be an incredibly tight game. Brad Richards, Mike Rupp, and Henrik Lundqvist were the heroes of the game. Rupp, one of the NHL's most notorious grinders scored two goals to bring the Rangers' back from a 2-0 deficit. Richards, the NHL's highest paid player this season, netted the game winner.

The true star though was Henrik Lundqvist. The all-star netminder made 33 saves, including an incredible stop on Danny Briere's penalty shot with 20 seconds left in the third period.

Check out his highlights from yesterday here:

Unfortunately, the game was not without its flaws. The ice surface was not great. Pucks were bouncing all over the place on passes and shots, and the skating appeared sluggish. Those problems were expected, however, based on previous Classics. The biggest problem with the game was not anticipated. The refereeing, especially in the third period was absolutely horrendous. Rangers' defensive star Ryan McDonough was called for a delay of game penalty late in the third period after he was hit by Flyer's forward James Van Riemsdyk into the post, which knocked the net of the moorings. Marian Gaborik on what seemed like a breakaway was completely hooked by Philadelphia defenseman Kimmo Timonen, which led to no call. Ryan Callahan was called for a penalty after being hooked up high, and Philadelphia was awarded a penalty shot with 19.6 seconds remaining in the third period. And while NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called the game "spectacular", I thought the officiating really cast a shadow on a great day for hockey.

You can watch the highlights here and see if you agree with the calls.

Also check out Rangers' coach John Tortorella's harsh words in the postgame press conference:

The final episode of 24/7 airs on HBO this Thursday and is sure to provide some interesting perspectives on the game and the officiating.

Back to the Sharks. It looks like I will be heading to the Sharks-Capitals game on Saturday night. I am looking forward to seeing the seemingly rejuvenated Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin in what should be a great matchup.

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