The Boston Bruins have had a long history with outdoor games.
Even before the NHL officially started its more recent outdoor games in 2003, the Bruins had appeared in an outdoor game when they played an outdoor exhibition game in 1956 in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland.
The team played semi-Mystery Alaska style, competing against four local teams for a period each before moving on to another town.
Since the Winter Classic began, the Bruins have played in four outdoor games, three Winter Classics and the NHL Outdoors game at Lake Tahoe.
Heading into Monday’s Winter Classic, which is back in Fenway Park for the first time since 2010, let’s rank the outdoor game’s the Bruins played in, minus 1956, for obvious reasons.
Last Place: Montreal Canadiens 5, Boston Bruins 1 at Gillette Stadium, January 1, 2016
What a shocker! The most disappointing outdoor game in Bruins history happened to be a lopsided 5-1 loss to the rival Montreal Canadiens.
A loss to the Canadiens at some stadium in Montreal would have made things a little less painful, but that wouldn’t move this game up in the rankings. It would’ve been less frustrating seeing Habs fans celebrating on their home turf rather than at the vaunted shrine of Gillette Stadium during the Patriots dynasty.
The game, played on New Year’s Day 2016, also happened during the team’s worst two-season stretch since the Bruins’ post-2005 lockout years when they finished last in the Northeast Division in consecutive seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
The worst thing about that Winter Classic was that, at the time, the Bruins were still very much in contention for a playoff spot. They sat third in the Atlantic Division, two points out of first place behind the Florida Panthers and one point behind the second-place Canadiens. They were fighting off the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning, who were all right on their heels.
Instead of a clutch performance against a rival team one point above them in the standings, the Bruins laid an egg.
They were in the game for about a minute, one period if I’m being generous. Once David Desharnais scored the opening goal, just over a minute into the first period, the Canadiens never trailed. They led 3-1 by the end of the second before finishing the game with a 5-1 win. Adam McQuaid scored the Bruins’ only goal early in the third period,
Tuukka Rask struggled to control rebounds, allowing five goals on 30 shots, while the Bruins were abysmal at keeping Canadiens out of the slot and Rask’s crease, where they potted multiple easy rebounds.
The game was a harbinger of things to come. The team couldn’t get up for an important game, on national television, against a rival, during a playoff race.
Come the season’s final game, the Bruins needed a win over the Ottawa Senators to clinch a playoff spot. Ninety minutes before game time, the team lost Rask to illness, forcing Boston to replace him with Jonas Gustavsson on short notice. Like in January, the Bruins laid an egg, falling 6-1 to the 11th-place Senators.
The Philadelphia Flyers later beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 to knock the Bruins out of the playoffs.
Third Place: Boston Bruins 4, Chicago Blackhawks 2 at Notre Dame Stadium, January 1, 2019
This game is easily forgotten because the highlight of the 2018-19 season was the Bruins’ march to the Stanley Cup Final. But the 2019 Winter Classic was a good one.
The Bruins twice came back from a goal down and found themselves tied with the host, Chicago Blackhawks more than halfway through the third period.
That’s when Sean Kuraly, who would make name for himself during the playoffs later that season, broke the tie by scoring on a rebound. The Bruins fought off a late Blackhawks push, and Brad Marchand scored an empty-net goal for a final score of 4-2.
Most everything about the game was perfect. The weather cooperated, the visuals were excellent, the game was exciting, the Bruins stars came up big (David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand all scored), and the Bruins won.
For Rask, it was more than just a win. The victory over the Blackhawks was his 469th win, making him the winningest goaltender in Bruins history, overtaking Tiny Thompson.
Second Place: Boston Bruins 2, Philadelphia Flyers 1 at Fenway Park, January 1, 2010
This game was an instant classic for Bruins fans.
The novelty of the Winter Classic was still a huge factor in the hype surrounding the game. Fanbases from cold climates were all imagining what hosting a Winter Classic would be like after the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres played in the first Winter Classic two years prior.
Boston was lucky enough to host its first Winter Classic in 2010 and did not disappoint. The Bruins engineered a late, third-period comeback to tie the game at one and scored the game-winner in overtime.
We also got to see a little bit of the angry Tim Thomas that we would see in the 2011 playoffs. Just under five minutes into the second period, with the score tied 0-0, Thomas, who had just been taken out by Flyers antagonist Scott Hartnell, attempted to get some revenge. When Hartnell posted himself back in front of Thomas for a screen, the goaltender lunged at Hartnell with a vicious cross-check.
Unfortunately, he did it just as Danny Syvret released a shot from the blue line, which found the empty net, vacated by an enraged Thomas, giving the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins tied the game on a power play with just 2:18 left in the game. That’s when Derek Morris found Mark Recchi in the slot with a perfect shot-pass that Recchi redirected past Michael Leighton to tie the game.
Then with three minutes left in overtime, who else but Patrice Bergeron found the stick of Marco Sturm in the crease, who like Recchi, redirected the puck past Leighton for the game-winner.
The theatrics were excellent, the visuals were amazing and the Bruins won. We saw vintage Tim Thomas a season before his Conn Smythe-winning playoff run.
The only reason to complain was the in-person experience. The sight lines at a baseball stadium don’t work for hockey.
If you sat in the bottom row, at or below glass level and were at one of the many odd angles, you saw mostly glass and very little hockey.
Still, the game was excellent, and the atmosphere was A+. The only reason it lost out to No. 1 was just how unique the Lake Tahoe game would be.
Winner: Boston Bruins 7, Philadelphia Flyers 3, NHL Outdoor Game at Lake Tahoe, February 21, 2021
This game was excellent from start to finish. The rink’s placement right on the Nevada shoreline of Lake Tahoe was the most unique locale for an NHL Outdoor game (I say keep going and play one on the beach in California).
The Bruins were entertaining before they even stepped on the ice, arriving to the game dressed like a bunch of early 90s ski bums mixed with the occasional jean-wearing, Starter-jacket-covered Masshole, who just stepped off the local ski hill.
The stunt was a welcome respite from the typical image of players dressed to the nines, walking in the bowls of an NHL stadium on the way to the locker room.
It came at a time when we all needed it. Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL schedule was out of whack, and the country was suffering through another winter wave of the virus.
The game was just as entertaining as the outfits were. The Bruins again had to come back from a first-period deficit when Charlie McAvoy scored 15:27 into the first period to tie the game at two.
From there, the Bruins blew out the Flyers. Pastrnak, Charlie Coyle, Trent Frederic and Nick Ritchie all scored in the second period for the Bruins to take a 6-2 lead. Frederic’s goal was the first of his career after 33 regular-season NHL games.
The game and the result were excellent. As amazing as it was seeing hockey played at Fenway Park for the first time, Tahoe was an unforgettable place for an amazingly fun game.
The 2023 Winter Classic has the potential to be as good or better as the Bruins’ most exciting outdoor games.
With Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak and McAvoy leading the way against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Jake Guentzel, it can’t be disappointing.
But where will it rank among the other four Bruins’ outdoor games? We will see!
Which outdoor game has been your favorite?
This poll is closed
Fenway I: Bruins vs. Flyers
Notre Dame: Bruins vs. Blackhawks
Lake Tahoe: Bruins vs. Flyers