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Saturday, January 1, 2011
Winter Classic: Barry Melrose's instant analysis

By Barry Melrose

PITTSBURGH -- I thought the team that needed to win it more, Washington, got the victory, and it could turn coach Bruce Boudreau's season around.

The Winter Classic on Saturday was more about will than skill. Washington walked into a tough environment at Heinz Field against the hottest team in the NHL and found a way to come from behind and get two points with a 3-1 win.

I know a lot of people will talk about the ice conditions, but that's what I love about this game -- every outdoor game has been different so far. We've seen snow, we've seen rain, we've been in baseball fields and football fields. I think that's part of the attractiveness of the event.

I think too much will be made of the ice surface. You have two teams who have played on bad ice before in the NHL. It's the same for both teams, and Washington found a way to fight through it.

Tonight, Semyon Varlamov outplayed Marc-Andre Fleury in net. He made the big saves, moved well and didn't beat himself. He stopped the ones he was supposed to stop.

Moving forward, I think Washington, Pittsburgh and Philly are heads and tails above any other team in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh and Philly have been playing great, and after talking to Boudreau yesterday, he believes the Caps are coming out of their funk. This win tonight will certainly help that. I see these three teams battling it out come April.

Again, I thought it turned out to be an awesome event, even if the weatherman became the most important person of the weekend!