In the second of a two-part series involving my selections for next weekend's NHL All-Star Game in Montreal, we head to the league's Western Conference where there is no shortage of talent.
In goal, it's pretty difficult not to overlook the outstanding performance put forth by Columbus Blue Jackets netminder Steve Mason. He's been lights out on most nights this season, tops in the NHL with a minuscule 1.91 goals against average and six shutouts. Mikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames receives an All-Star berth from me, though I'm sure his coach, Mike Keenan, would prefer he use the time to rest.
"Kipper" has played in 42 of the Flames first 45 games. He's a horse. Thirdly, let's invite Evgeni Nabakov of the San Jose Sharks, who is enjoying a Cy Young season in Silicone Valley, posting a 24-4-5 record to date.
On defence, Nabakov's teammate Dan Boyle is my unanimous choice to be leading the Western group of rearguards. He should be joined by Detroit's duo, Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski, Nashville's Shea Weber, Edmonton's Sheldon Souray, and Chicago's Brian Campbell.
The Campbell selection was a tough one over Calgary's Dion Phaneuf, who as everyone knows is a pleasure to watch and hits everything in sight. But, again it's the All-Star Game and the affair is usually a no-hitter. So I chose Campbell for his ability to skate, handle the puck, and make plays.
Weber's 14 goals, one ahead of Boyle and two in front of Souray, was definitely eye-catching as far as D-men were concerned.
While the West does not have near the speed of some of the East All-Stars, ie. Crosby, Ovechkin, or Kovalchuk, it does bode players who rank right up there in the skills department.
I'm a huge fan of players who can stick-handle out of a phone-booth. And, my first Western forward representative is Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk. He's made many the highlight reels with his deft play making skills that sometimes defies logic. Datsyuk, along with Marian Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg, would be my choice for an all Red Wing line at this year's All-Star Game.
Others to include: San Jose's Patrick Marleau, who is enjoying a resurrection this season with the Sharks, after a sub-par performance a year ago. He, as well as, fellow Sharks Joe Thornton and Devon Setoguchi give the West an above average second unit.
They could be followed by the Canadian trio comprised of Calgary's Jarome Iginla, Phoenix's Shane Doan, and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf. There's an imposing threesome.
The fourth line should consist of Chicago's Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, as well as, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin.
Columbus' Derrick Brassard would have certainly garnered some All-Star consideration, if a shoulder injury in December had not sidelined him. Also, Anaheim's Bobby Ryan has collected 28 in only 29 games since recalled from the minors. He's maybe someone to watch for at up and coming NHL All-Star events.
Most of my All-Star picks were made with offense in mind, whether it be from a forward or a defenceman. Heck, why not includes the goalies too. Seriously, no one wants to see a 1-0 All-Star Game, do they?
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