Every hockey fan was happy to hear the news the NHL is back. Being a fan it was so frustrating that the deal could not be resolved earlier to save what is one of the most epic days in the National Hockey League.
An afternoon full of media, electricity, smooth skating and “jump-out-of-your-seat action” mixed in with great humorous sound bites of those players “Mic’ed up.” Oh yea, and lots and lots goal horns!
Unfortunately, the fan base would have to settle for a 48-game season. At the same time, this opened up opportunity for writers like myself to use tasteful judgment to bring the fans what they want.
So far this season, we have witnessed history being made, elite players doing their usual tricks, ageless wonders along with some surprises and disappointments. And with that, I have pieced together a roster for each conference based on their achievements and what they would have brought to the table in this year’s “Fantasy NHL All-Star Game.”
Here is a look at what the All-Star teams might be as they’re tougher than most thought having to leave out so many great players. If you find yourself asking “Hey, where is ______?” The answer is simple- there was just not enough room!
Eastern Conference All-Stars
It should come to no surprise to anyone who the leader of this team is. Only one comes to mind- the player who is finally back to form after recovering from his concussion. Pittsburgh Penguins’ center Sidney Crosby is dominating the league as he did in years past and will wear the “C” on his jersey just as he does in Steel Town.
Crosby leads the league in scoring with 45 points and his 33 assists are also tops in the league.
The 25-year old captain will center the top line with teammate Chris Kunitz and Buffalo Sabres’ forward Thomas Vanek.
The second line will be led by Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, who has scored at least 45 goals in the last three years.
Even with the shortened season, Stamkos shows no concern as he is on pace to have himself another 40-goal season. Don’t worry, he will do it.
Stamkos will be accompanied by teammate Martin St. Louis as well as New York Rangers’ Rick Nash. This will be a deadly combination with skill all around. St. Louis can dish the puck to Stamkos, or go to Nash who is arguably the best at the old “power-move” to the net.
Moving to the third line. Even though he has not blown the league away in numbers like he did in 2011-12, Philadelphia Flyers’ forward and captain Claude Giroux has more than enough skill to make the squad. Giroux still ranks in the top 20 in scoring after recording a career high 93 points last season (28 goals, 65 assists).
In a fair attempt to keep teammates together, Jakub Voracek will join Giroux on the wing. After losing James van Riemsdyk and Jaromir Jagr on top of an extensive injury to Scott Hartnell, Voracek has filled in nicely leading the Flyers in scoring so far this year. New York Islanders’ forward John Tavares will play on the opposite side.
It just doesn’t seem right to call this the fourth line but once again, this is an All-Star lineup.
Carolina Hurricanes’ captain Eric Staal has been chosen to lead this line with forwards Mike Ribero of the Washington Capitals and Patrick Elias of the New Jersey Devils.
Elias got the edge over teammate Ilya Kovalchuk who just missed my vote. This goes to show these are not biased selections because Kovy has been one of my favorite players ever since he came into the league with Atlanta. Elias, who turns 37 in April, is not showing his age with 25 points in 26 games.
Defensive pairings are as follows- Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang is paired with former Penguin Sergei Gonchar, who gets the vote in replacement of the injured Erik Karlson. Letang and Gonchar, who is Ottawa’s representative, have plenty of chemistry after winning a Stanley Cup together in 2009.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ representative Dion Phaneuf will play with Florida Panthers’ representative Brian Campbell.
And finally, Winnipeg Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien (gets the nod in replace of injured Tobias Enstrom) is paired with Montreal Canadians’ P.K. Subban who has been on a massive tear after missing the first few weeks. Andrei Markov has done a great job on the powerplay while Subban was negotiating his contract, but P.K. had 18 points in 20 games, 13 of those coming on the powerplay.
The goaltenders for the East will appear in this order- Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins; Carey Price, Montreal; Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. King Henrik gets the spot in place of the injured Craig Anderson of Ottawa.
The Eastern Conference will be coached by Claude Julien of Boston. He is assisted by Dan Bylsma of Pittsburgh and Paul MacLean of Ottawa.
Western Conference All-Stars
Picking the Western All-Stars was much harder than the East. (But here we go!)
The West will be led by their captain, Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings. He will play on the top line with teammate Pavel Datsyuk and Anaheim Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf, who leads the West in scoring with 31 points. Think of the possibilities with this trio.
The second line has just as much firepower. Not all of the Chicago Blackhawks can make the roster, but Patrick Kane is surprisingly the ‘lone Hawk’ (at least for the skaters). He will lead the second line with Colorado Avalanche’s Matt Duchene and Anaheim’s Corey Perry. Not a bad trio for a shootout, eh?
Duchene is having himself a great year with the addition of P.A. Parenteu (almost made the roster) with 26 points in 23 games. And who can forget the Kane and Perry showdown in last year’s breakaway challenge in the Skills Competition? A lot of creativity on this line would make for what Robert De Niro quoted in the movie “The Fan”- “A Magical Conjunction.”
Let us move to another great line featuring three stars who have a total of 11 All-Star appearances. San Jose Sharks’ forward Joe Thornton will center the third line between two familiar faces (no pun intended here)- Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks. The Sedin twins have a total of 47 points this season and will mesh well with a veteran like Thornton.
Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings is the final center of the Western roster. He is joined by a surprising Sam Gagner who is having a great year for the Edmonton Oilers and scoring more consistently than Taylor Hall and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins.
The last forward is the guy all teams are trying to snag before the trade deadline this season and that is the Calgary Flames’ lone representative Jarome Iginla. Iggy got off to a very slow start scoring just one goal in his first 16 games, but has heated up lately and has 7 goals and 12 assists to this point.
Now for the Western defense.
Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues will pair up with Minnesota Wild’s Ryan Suter.
Niklas Kronwall of Detroit will skate alongside Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators.
Oliver-Ekman Larson of the Phoenix Coyotes will play with Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets, each lone representatives of their respected clubs.
Choosing the goaltenders is a no-brainer. Corey Crawford of Chicago will start the game and he will be backed up by Antti Niemi of San Jose and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne who leads the league with five shutouts.
The Western Conference will be coached by none other than Joel Quenneville of the record-setting Blackhawks. Anyone have a problem with that? I didn’t think so.
He is assisted by Bruce Boudreau of Anaheim and Alain Vigneault of Vancouver.
“Ladies and gentlemen… your 2013 NHL All-Stars!” Ekiert style
The Result and MVP
Just to make sure the fans get what they want, three periods were not enough in our “Fantasy All-Star game.” With the game tied at 13, both goaltenders Rinne and Lundquist held their ground in overtime to force a shootout!
Here we go-
Pavel Datsuk shootout goal
Kris Letang shootout goal
Patrick Kane shootout goal
Rick Nash shootout saved
Matt Duchene shootout saved
Sidney Crosby shootout goal
Extra shootout rounds!
Henrik Zetterberg shootout missed
Claude Giroux shootout saved
Corey Perry shootout goal
Steven Stamkos shootout goal
Daniel Sedin shootout saved
Thomas Vanek shootout goal
And there you have it. Vanek gets the game-winner in the sixth round of the shootout and the Eastern Conference wins 14-13.
Finally, the All-Star MVP goes to (drumroll)… with two goals and four assists, the keys go to Sidney Crosby.
Here’s to a great second half of hockey!