The NHL All-Star Game has a wide reputation for being a farce. I suppose any All-Star game in any sport is a bit of a joke, unless there is some sort of incentive for the players to compete. But I've always enjoyed the NHL All-Star Game despite that, because I like the showcase aspect of it. I like watching the elite players of the sport I love putting on a clinic.
I had high hopes going into last night's game. Pre-game interviews with Brendan Shanahan and Joe Sakic, captains for the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, respectively, indicated that with so many first-time All-Stars (22 in total), the game would have more of a competitive edge, as they would all be trying to prove themselves. Of course, I would be focusing most of my attention on Dany Heatley, my lone Senator All-Star who won the MVP award in the 2003 All-Star Game after scoring 4 goals, the youngest player ever to do so. But I was also excited to watch a line that contained both Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. How awesome would that be??
As it turns out...not so awesome.
I'm not sure what the final point tally was on Ovechkin, but I believe he got one less-than-stellar goal. The flashiest thing about him was his mirrored Oakley visor, which he is banned from wearing in official NHL games.
And as for Sid the Kid...Nothin'. Nada. Zippo. Now, how, exactly, did that happen?? With the final score being 12-9 for the Western Conference, how did the NHL's phenom, the Wunderkid, the Next Gretzky, the top vote-getter in the fan vote, not get one single point? Not even a measly little ol' assist?
Yeah, that was a bit of a dissapointment.
The other big disappointment for me was that it seemed Dany Heatley got less ice time than any other player in the whole game. I was watching for him, and he was on a pretty good line with Daniel Briere and Marian Hossa, but somehow, Heater didn't seem to be on the ice very much. When he was out, he was making things happen - he set up Briere for the first goal of the game, and tapped in his own early in the third, and he had a zillion other chances. I think he definitely could have received MVP honours if he'd been give a little more ice time.
As it turns out, Dany's linemate Briere was handed top honours and the keys to a new truck for scoring a goal and 5 assists.
Other All-Star Revelations for me: I enjoyed seeing a few of the ex-Sens - Havlat and Hossa - but one of them still sticks in my craw. Zdeno Chara. For some reason, I have a lot of ill will towards that guy. When he scored his goal, I spewed venom. (Mainly because I felt Briere was trying to hit Dany Heatley with his pass, but because Z's stupid stick is so damned long, he intercepted it and scored instead.) The best parts of the game, I thought, were when they let us listen in on the players wearing mics. Ryan Smyth's a funny dude. And I also enjoyed the feature during one of the intermissions when they followed the journey of the kids who won the McDonald's In the Line-Up Contest. They got to mingle with the players, take part in a practice, hang out in the dressing rooms with the All-Stars, and then join them on-ice for the pre-game festivities. The players seemed to be really good with the kids - especially Eric Staal, Ryan Smyth, and Roberto Luongo - and it made me smile.
So my final thought on the All-Star Game is this: The NHL really should consider adding some sort of incentive to the game, because last night's "showcase" really was a bit boring. I had more fun watching Andrej Meszaros the night before in the Young Stars Game, when he apparently decided to switch positions with Patrick Eaves and play up front all night. (He potted 2 goals and seemed to be having a blast.)
Can't wait for the regular season to resume!!