ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Shortly before he walked outside Friday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Mike Babcock said: “Hang on to your hat.”
Babcock's Toronto Maple Leafs and the Washington Capitals might want to hang on to everything with high wind in the forecast for today's outdoors Stadium Series game at the U.S. Naval Academy. The storm knocking out power and disrupting travel up and down the East Coast forced both teams to practice indoors Friday, where they were left to contemplate what sustained winds of 15-20 mph and gusts as high as 32 mph might have on their game.
“I have no idea,” Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak said. “Hopefully we're skating with the wind more than we are against it.”
The wind is enough of a factor that the game could be postponed to Sunday. The glass had to be removed from the on-field rink because of safety concerns.
The NHL has played 24 previous regular-season outdoor games and this one could easily see the worst conditions when it comes to wind. Temperatures just above freezing would not rank it among the coldest.
“I haven't played in anywhere it's been super windy,” said Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk, who will be taking part in his fifth outdoor game. “It'll definitely make a unique dynamic, I know. It seems like in today's game there's lots of high flips and stuff like that, so it'll be interesting to see how the puck reacts getting flipped in the air and a gust of wind comes up.”
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby thinks strong wind would possibly affect dump-ins or high flips of the puck and that it could make it difficult for players to keep their eyes open when it's head on. Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen is more concerned for the skaters – and that's a shared concern.
“If you have a turnover and you've got to backcheck, that's probably when it's going to be a little tough,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said.
Previous outdoor games have included teams changing ends at the 10-minute mark of the third period to negate a wind advantage. At the least, that's likely.