Predicting the 2013-14 NHL All-Star Teams
Will it be the usual crowd, or will new stars muscle their way onto the NHL's All-Star teams at season's end?
There are a number of young and talented players who have worked their way into the lineup at the start of the season, and players like Nathan MacKinnon or Jacob Trouba could be quite formidable.
But when it comes to the exalted status of the NHL's All-Star teams, we believe that the stars will dominate.
Here's our prediction for the NHL's first and second All-Star teams for the 2013-14 season.
Center Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (First Team)
2013 stats: 15 goals, 41 assists, plus-26
Projected 2013-14 stats: 37 goals, 82 assists, plus-30
Why he'll be an All-Star: If Crosby is not the most talented player in the league, he's in the top three. However, it's difficult to find a player who works harder to improve every single season. Crosby is a remarkably accurate shooter, but that's probably just his third-best characteristic.
He has the skating speed and agility to find the soft spot in any defense, and that allows him to get into the proper position to make a game-changing play. He is also the best passer in the game.
Crosby is motivated to have a healthy and complete full season. His 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons were torn apart by concussion problems, while the 2012-13 season was ripped in half by the lockout and a shattered jaw. He wants to show he is the best over an 82-game season.
Right Wing Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (First Team)
2013 stats: 23 goals, 32 assists, plus-11
Projected 2013-14 stats: 36 goals, 51 assists, plus-20
Why he'll be an All-Star: Patrick Kane showed a renewed dedication last year and seemed to mature after several well-publicized off-the-ice incidents raised questions about his dedication to his sport.
He erased those concerns last year, as he was the Blackhawks' leading regular-season scorer and then won the Conn Smythe Trophy after the Blackhawks brought home their second Stanley Cup in four years.
In past years, Kane would have celebrated the championship with a series of besotted episodes. Not this year, as Kane dedicated himself to getting in the best condition of his career.
His stick-handling ability is second to none, and he knows how to get open and create scoring opportunities. A remarkable year should be at hand.
Left Wing Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens (First Team)
2013 stats: 15 goals, 24 assists, plus-eight
Projected 2013-14 stats: 33 goals, 50 assists, plus-15
Why he'll be an All-Star: Max Pacioretty has gotten better every year, and he has the ability to carry the Canadiens on his back in 2013-14.
Pacioretty knows how to use his 6'2", 210-pound frame to wall off defenders and drive in on the net. He excels at shooting the puck from unusual angles, which causes problems for opposing goaltenders.
A surprisingly agile skater, Pacioretty will play more of a power forward role this year. He should excel because he's got the quick hands to go along with the ability to anchor himself in front of the net.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins (First Team)
2013 stats: seven goals, 12 assists, plus-14
Projected 2013-14 stats: 12 goals, 28 assists, plus-29
Why he'll be an All-Star: Zdeno Chara is the best shut-down defenseman in the game.
He also has remarkable power in his slap shot, which is the hardest in the game, and he can also go to the front of the net and screen the goalie like few others when the Bruins are on the power play.
However, his offensive contributions are a bonus. He plays an intelligent and physical game in his own zone, and his amazing reach allows him to break up plays and torment opponents. Chara also delivers the hardest body checks in the game.
Faster, quicker players can give him problems, but there are few situations when Chara is going to come out second best.
Defenseman Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators (First Team)
2013 stats: six goals, eight assists, plus-eight
Projected 2013-14 stats: 26 goals, 49 assists, plus-26
Why he'll be an All-Star: Erik Karlsson was robbed of having another great season when he suffered an Achilles injury last year and was limited to 17 games.
He made a remarkable recovery after he took a questionable skate to the back of his leg from Matt Cooke and made it back before the end of the regular season.
If Karlsson can avoid injuries this year, look for a year similar to his Norris Trophy 2011-12 season in which scored 19 goals and 59 assists. Karlsson is a brilliant skater and the best offensive defenseman in the game.
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (First Team)
2013 stats: 24-16-3, 2.05 goals-against average, .926 save percentage, two shutouts
Projected 2013-14 stats: 36-20-7, 2.01 GAA, .939 save percentage, nine shutouts
Why he'll be an All-Star: It's hard to find any flaw in Henrik Lundqvist's game. You can most likely count the number of bad games he will have this season on one hand.
Lundqvist has a superior catching glove and moves exceptionally well from post to post. He is a gifted athlete, but the reason he is perhaps the best goalie in the world is that he prepares extremely well. He knows his competition and studies video, so he knows—and doesn't have to guess—his opponents' tendencies.
He never takes any opponent lightly, and that's why he plays consistently.
Center Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (Second Team)
2013 stats: 29 goals, 28 assists, minus-four
Projected 2013-14 stats: 60 goals, 48 assists, plus-14
Why he'll be an All-Star: Stamkos has an overpowering slap shot, a blazing wrist shot and his ability to get in the proper position in front of the net so he can jump on rebounds and deflections is uncanny.
Stamkos keeps himself in top condition, and his stamina allows him to be quite effective when the game is on the line in the third period or overtime. He has uncanny accuracy to find the corners of the net and can score clutch goals.
Right Wing Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (Second Team)
2013 stats: 32 goals, 24 assists, plus-two
Projected 2013-14 stats: 51 goals, 40 assists, plus-12
Why he'll be an All-Star: Ovechkin got off to an awful start last year, and it appeared he was just a shell of the player who had been one of the league's dominant goals scorers through the first five years of his career.
However, shortly after head coach Adam Oates switched him from left wing to right wing, Ovechkin started scoring goals again and never stopped. He led the Caps from the Southeast Division basement to the playoffs.
Ovechkin is not going to slow down this year, as he wants to have gaudy statistics when he is introduced at the Sochi Olympics in February.
Left Wing Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators (Second Team)
2013 stats: 11 goals, 19 assists, plus-three
Projected 2013-14 stats: 41 goals, 40 assists, plus-22
Why he'll be an All-Star: Ryan is one of the most consistent goal scorers in the league. He had four consecutive seasons in which he scored 30 goals or more with the Ducks, and he should be the kind of addition that the Sens need to make a run in the Atlantic Division.
Head coach Paul MacLean will ask Ryan to fill the role of first-line left winger and contribute on the power play. He should be an excellent fit playing next to Jason Spezza.
Defenseman Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild (Second Team)
2013 stats: four goals, 28 assists, plus-two
Projected 2013-14 stats: eight goals, 31 assists, plus-16
Why he'll be an All-Star: The Wild thought they were getting one of the dominant defensemen in the game when they signed Suter to a free-agent contract prior to the 2012-13 season. After a slow start, he proved to be just that.
Suter is a workhorse on the blue line who led the NHL in ice time with a mark of 27:16 per game. He is on the ice in all crucial situations. Suter is a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate.
Defenseman P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens (Second Team)
2013 stats: 11 goals, 27 assists, plus-12
Projected 2013-14 stats: 23 goals, 41 assists, plus-21
Why he'll be an All-Star: Subban is a talented defenseman who is known for his ability to carry the puck from end to end and use his vicious shot to score important goals.
But there's a little secret about Subban's game that few give him credit for. He is an excellent defensive defenseman who can tilt the ice in the Canadiens' favor because he has possession of the puck so often. Subban won the Norris Trophy in 2013 and has an excellent chance to contend for the award again in 2013-14.
Goalie Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (Second Team)
2013 stats: 19-10-5, 2.00 goals-against average , .920 save percentage, five shutouts
Projected 2013-14 stats: 36-13-8, 2.09 GAA, .918 save percentage, nine shutouts
Why he'll be an All-Star: Rask combines stellar technique with near-perfect positioning. He made a name for himself in the 2009-10 season when he was forced into the lineup after Tim Thomas suffered a hip injury. Rask played stellar hockey that year with a 1.97 GAA and .931 save percentage.
While Rask had to return to the bench the following two years when Thomas returned to health, he played the position with expertise in 2013 and was probably the Bruins' most important player. While Rask has a temper, he knows how to concentrate at the game's biggest moments and stay on top of his game.