Off The Draw
Hockey fans—many of them from Chicago, apparently—cast more than 35 million votes to determine six starters for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game. At forward are Latvian hero Zemgus Girgensons, of the Sabres, and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, of the Blackhawks. On the backline are Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, while in net is teammate Corey Crawford.
Now it—s up to the NHL to fill out the roster for the Jan. 25 event in Columbus.
It’s no easy task, especially if the league wants each franchise represented. There are more worthy candidates than there are spots available, and that means there will be some All-Star-caliber players snubbed when the league announces the remaining players on Saturday. On Friday, Peter Laviolette of the Predators (the team with the league’s best points percentage) and Darryl Sutter of the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings were named to coach the two squads.
So who deserves the call? Taking on the delicate juggling act ourselves, and with an eye to offense—after all, who plays any defense in these glorified games of shinny?—we arrived at the following names (all stats as of Friday, Jan. 9):
• Pekka Rinne, Predators
Bona fides: first in wins (27); third in goals-against average (2.00); fourth in save percentage (.929)
• Shea Weber, Predators
Bona fides: second (tied) among defensemen in goals (10); fifth (tied) in scoring (28 points)
• P.K. Subban, Canadiens
Bona fides: seventh among defensemen in scoring (27 points); second (tied) in scoring for Montreal
• Sidney Crosby, Penguins
Bona fides: Disappointing season, but still the league’s marquee star
• Tyler Johnson, Lightning
Bona fides: third (tied) in scoring (45 points); first (tied) in plus-minus (+26)
• Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks
Bona fides: Hart Trophy favorite
• Vladimir Tarasenko, Blues
Bona fides: Human highlight reel through first half of season
• Rick Nash, Rangers
Bona fides: Comeback player of the year, with 25 goals
• Anze Kopitar, Kings
Bona fides: Rebounded from slow start with excellent December
• Evgeni Malkin, Penguins
Bona fides: third (tied) in scoring (45 points); absolutely dominant of late
What to watch this weekend
Panthers at Flames (9 p.m. EST; SN1, FS-F)
Calgary has to be licking its chops for this one. Florida is coming off an emotional 3–1 win in Roberto Luongo's return to Vancouver on Thursday night and could be vulnerable to a letdown. Meanwhile, the Panthers’ Al Montoya is expected to get his first start in net since a disastrous New Year’s Eve performance in which he allowed five goals on 34 shots against the Rangers. The loss to New York dropped the backup to 0-4-0 with a 3.65 goals-against average in his last four games. The Flames should have Jiri Hudler back in the lineup after he missed Wednesday’s game to attend the the birth of his first child. Hudler is tied for the team lead with 13 goals and has 23 points in his last 19 games.
Rest of the schedule: Islanders at Devils (7 p.m. EST; MSG, MSG+); Blue Jackets at Maple Leafs (7:30 p.m. EST; FS-O, TSN4); Sabres at Lightning (7:30 p.m. EST; MSG-B, SUN); Blackhawks at Oilers (9:30 p.m. EST; CSN-CH, SNW)
Penguins at Canadiens (7 p.m. EST; CBC, NHLN-US, TVA, ROOT)
What Pittsburgh has accomplished this season is a tiny miracle. There have been stretches, especially during the past month, when injuries have forced the Penguins to dress an NHL/AHL hybrid lineup, and yet they’ve held on to the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. The perch is looking a bit more precarious now, though, after two straight losses, including one last Saturday to Montreal at Consol Energy Center. To avoid losing three in a row, Pittsburgh will need to counter the Canadiens’ attempts to clog the neutral zone. Then Pens will also have to find a way to create a net-front presence while getting something from a power play that has forgotten how to finish. That’s where Montreal could be vulnerable. The Habs allowed two power-play goals on six opportunities in a 4–2 loss to the Lightning last Tuesday, and generally looked flat in their return from a 5-0-0 road trip. Coach Michel Therrien criticized his team’s lack of discipline.
Rest of the schedule: Bruins at Flyers (1 p.m. EST; NHLN-US, SN, NESN, CSN-PH); Predators at Wild (2 p.m. EST; FS-TN, FS-N, FS-WI); Stars at Avalanche (3 p.m. EST; FS-SW+, ALT); Red Wings at Capitals (7 p.m. EST; SN, FS-D, CSN-DC); Islanders at Blue Jackets (7 p.m. EST; MSG+, FS-0); Senators at Coyotes (7 p.m. EST; CITY, FS-A); Hurricanes at Blues (8 p.m. EST; FS-CR; FS-MW); Flames at Canucks (10 p.m. EST; CBC); Jets at Kings (10 p.m. EST; SN, FS-W); Rangers at Sharks (10 p.m. EST; FX-CA, MSG, CSN-CA)
Wild at Blackhawks (8 p.m. EST; NBCSN, TVA, WGN)
Despite dropping a 4–2 decision to Chicago in Minnesota on Thursday night, the Wild looked better—much better—in that defeat than they had in recent games. Perhaps inspired by coach Mike Yeo’s well-publicized tirade, they dictated the pace, controlled possession and outshot the Blackhawks 37–10 in the final two periods. But a moral victory only goes so far for a team that’s lost nine of its last 11 games and is quickly dropping off the playoff pace in the West. Minnesota needs two points in the worst way, both from this rematch at the United Center and from its game on Saturday against another Central Division power: the Predators. Anything less and there could be a new man behind the bench come Monday.
Rest of the schedule: Panthers at Oilers (7 p.m. EST; CITY, FS-F); Jets at Ducks (9 p.m. EST; TSN3, PRIME)
What you missed
• Former Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo was hailed in his emotional return to Vancouver on Thursday night.
• Capitals coach Barry Trotz took a stick to the chops ... from one of his own players.
• Ahead of Teemu Selanne’s number retirement ceremony in Anaheim on Sunday, Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen unveiled his Finnish Flash tribute mask.
• The Devils released a comprehensive breakdown of the headwear that fans tossed on the ice after Jaromir Jagr’s hat trick on Jan. 3.
• The Rangers and the Kings met for the first time since their Stanley Cup battle last summer and the scoreboard at L.A.’s Staples Center went a tad haywire.
The numbers game
• The Rangers have won 12 of 13 games for the first time since Jan. 7 to Feb. 10, 1973, and are the first Eastern Conference team to beat the Canucks, the Ducks, the Flames, the Kings and the Oilers on the road since the Canadiens and the Bruins did so during the 1997–98 season.
• Luongo is now tied with Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek for 11th in career NHL victories (389).
• Nashville (27-9-4) is off the best 40-game start in team history.
• French forward Antoine Roussel of Dallas paid tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre during last night's game against the Predators.
• For the second time in six nights, San Jose got crushed 7–2 by St. Louis. Not surprising then that coach Todd McLellan called out his stars in the wake up the humiliating defeat.
• While Philadelphia GM Ron Hextall preaches patience, Sam Donnellon makes the case that Craig Berube won't finish the season behind the Flyers’ bench.
• There were times when the late J.P. Parise’s life played out like deleted scenes from Slap Shot. Jim Souhan offers a fond remembrance of a life that didn’t lack for excitement.