Surprisingly enough, I can report to you all this morning that I actually enjoyed the NHL All-Star game! Well, for the most part. I mean, as much as I possibly could, considering my two Senators reps, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza, had a relatively quiet weekend.
Alfie was named to the starting line-up for the East, but he failed miserably during the Accuracy Shooting portion of the Skills Competition, and then was held off the scoresheet in the showcase game (but he did look pretty good out there, nonetheless). Spezza's role in the Skills Comp was pretty limited - he got to do the stickhandling portion of one event that also involved saucer-passing, one-timers, and the goalies trying to score - (Sound complicated? It was...) - and he was also one the guys dishing the puck to his Eastern teammates in the Accuracy Shooting, which Tomas Kaberle eventually won, and Spezza celebrated as if he'd just won the Cup. (OK, not quite, but his enthusiasm was a bit too much for his Leaf nemesis.) In the actual game, Spezz looked pretty nifty out there with Alexander Ovechkin, as he collected a couple of assists, setting up Alex the Gr8's 2 goals.
The East eventually swept the entire weekend, winning both the Skills Competition and the All-Star Game, so that was pretty nice, especially with Sens coach John Paddock behind the bench.
Other highlights for me:
-Alex Ovechkin's attempts in the Shoot-Out competition, when he bounced the puck up in the air, spun around, and tried to bat it into the net. He didn't score, but it was pretty cool to watch. Plus, I think he may have been the only competitor who realized the point of the drill was to entertain. And that, he did.
- Jason Arnott. Anytime the camera was on him. I was reminded of how handsome he is.
- The way the guys sitting on the ice reacted after Jarome Iginla fired a shot in the Hardest Shot competition and missed the net. They all ducked as though it was going to come riccocheting back at them, then they all burst out laughing.
- The moment I realized Taylor Kitsch, the Canadian actor who stars as Tim Riggins on the show "Friday Night Lights", was one of the celeb judges during the Shoot-Out competition. He was so hot. And then, I got to giggle everytime it came time to give a score, and he seemed to wait and see what the other judges were holding up before making his decision. Too cute!
- Rick Nash's hat trick in the showcase game, all scored on breakaways, and the first came only 12 seconds into the match, an All-Star game record. The other 2 were highlight-worthy, and it seemed Nash, who was left out of the Shoot-Out competition the night before, decided to put on his own little clinic.
- Ilya Kovalchuk's showmanship during the game was remarkable. The dude came to entertain, especially in the second period when he was clearly trying to score desperately for his hometown crowd. After one point-blank shot on Evgeni Nabokov that was stopped, he fell backwards in disbelief, sprawled out on the ice staring heaven-ward, then hopped up and put his arms around the West's goaltender. Moments later, he was sent in again on Nabokov, and after being stopped again in the dying seconds of the period, he slammed his stick on the ice and made a real show of being ticked off. Then, in his post-game interview, he was cracking jokes left, right & centre. His cell rang at one point, and he stopped to answer it, explaining, "It is my sister. It's her first time at Phillips Arena. She may be lost."
- The goaltending in the game was awesome, even though the final score was 8-7, and there were many flashy saves that were almost more impressive than any goal scored, particularly Tim Thomas' save, when the puck was trickling along the line, and he reached back between his legs with his stick and swept it away. Evgeni Nabokov, spectacular in the saves mentioned above against Kovalchuk, ended up being the only goalie to not allow a goal, allowing the West to mount a comeback during the second period after they had gone down early 5-1 to the East.
- They've been saying on the post-All-Star-weekend analyses how cool it was that an actual hockey game broke out, and that it did. Especially in the third period, when the West had stormed back, and the teams began exchanging end-to-end chances, and you could tell that both teams were actually trying hard to win. There was a little pride on the line after all, and it ended up being the most competitive All-Star game I think I've ever witnessed.
Kudos to the players for showing up and entertaining the masses. For once, the weekend wasn't a complete joke, and while there's still some tweaking to do, I think the All-Star game is definitely headed in the right direction!