When the Washington Capitals took the ice at 11:30 this morning, half the ice was shaded and the other was in the sun. Braden Holtby sat in the goal in the shade, staring out at his teammates.
“The ice, the boards, everything was great,” he said. “It lets us focus on our job today. There were some shadows that made the longer shots more difficult, hopefully they’re gone before the game time. It might make those a little bit more difficult if those shadows are still there.”
When asked how to prepare for these conditions, Holtby paused for a second.
“Just hope you see it,” he said with a laugh. “Just hope you see the puck. It’s just one of those things. You control what you can control. If those [shadows] are there you just fight through it.”
Eric Fehr, who notched two goals in his last Winter Classic appearance in 2011 in Pittsburgh, sat in the dressing room with two thick lines of eye-black on his face, preparing to battle what some have called the “Sun Monster.”
“The ice was great,” he said. “It is more of the sun that would be an issue for us so I think that is something they’re going to have to discuss. I wore the eye-black for a couple other practices. I thought it was cool. I don’t know if it works, I just like the way it looks.”
Fehr was a proponent of not switching sides halfway through the third as a strategic move.
“It definitely helps going one way as opposed to another,” he said. “I think if I remember correctly, we’re going with the sunshine, if you will, for the first and the third. I’m not sure if that would be an advantage or disadvantage. It definitely won’t hurt if their goalie won’t be able to see everything.”
Jay Beagle echoed the sentiments of his teammates regarding the ice conditions.
“It was tough to kind of see some pucks moving fast,” said the forward. “It’d be, I don’t know, it’d be a little bit tough to play, if we play at 1 o’clock with the glare, the way the glare was. But ice conditions were good.”
Whatever is decided, Washington defenseman Karl Alzner hopes the decision is made promptly.
“They said by 2:30 the sun kind of goes behind the buildings, so that would make sense to wait until then, but I just hope that we don’t get here and then they decide to postpone it,” Alzner said. “Because then we’re sitting around for an hour and a half doing nothing.”
Assistant Captain Nicklas Backstrom, a native of dreary Scandinavia, had a personal perspective on the matter.
“Well, I love it actually,” he said. “I thought it was great. How I grew up, you were looking forward to a sunny day actually. We’ll see what they do tomorrow.”
Washington Coach Barry Trotz praised the ice conditions, but was unsure of the glare situation.
“The glare, we were out earlier and everyone said there was a lot of glare, but towards the end it settled down,” he said. “So, roughly a half hour ago, probably, the game would start and I think it will be fine.”
He was also a proponent of the proposed mid-third period end swap.
“I think we have come up with a, maybe a little bit of a solution, if it is a little bit bright, we’ll probably switch ends or something like that for the 10-minute mark,” Trotz said.
“Chicago and us have been talking about a possibility of that. So, I think it will be fine. It will be, if it stays gorgeous, like it was like that today, it will be a great game tomorrow.”
During the Blackhawks practice, the shadows were not as much of an issue because it was later in the day.
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford said the sun effect “wasn’t too bad.”
“There was maybe a couple spots where the sun was coming through, so you have to find it through the shadows and through the sun,” he said. “But it wasn’t anything…he [Holtby] is going to have to deal with the same thing, so there is no advantage there.”
After both team practices, it is just a matter of the NHL officials and what they decide is fair. So will they or won’t they?