The Winter Olympics in Vancouver this year prevent the NHL from holding its annual All-Star Game. While many players will indeed represent their home countries in what has been deemed a World All-Star game, it just isn’t the same as the NHL All-Star weekend that is all about the fans. Most can recall the magic of the 2009 game when then-Canadiens star Alex Kovalev scored in the shoot-out, giving the East a 12-11 victory.
The selections below are open for discussion, so feel free to weigh in. Had the All-Star game been held this year, the following represents the starting rosters for each conference:
LW – Alexander Ovechkin (Capitals)
C – Sidney Crosby (Penguins)
RW – Marion Gaborik (Rangers)
D – Andrei Markov (Canadiens)
D – Mike Green (Capitals)
G – Ryan Miller (Sabres)
Honorable Mention: Nicklas Backstrom
Analysis: There is a ton of offensive gems in the Eastern Conference this season. Crosby specifically wasn’t much of a goal-scorer prior to this season, but he has been shooting more and as a result is finding the back of the net more frequently. Teammate Evgeni Malkin is having a terrible season, including a measly 10 points over the last month and a -11 plus/minus rating, putting the pressure on Crosby to pick up the slack.
On defense, Mike Green and Andrei Markov make for a solid pairing as they both shut down opponents in their end in addition to an offensive threat. Markov returned to Monteal after missing 32 games with a lacerated ankle injury. The Habs’ power play is firing on all cylinder since Markov’s return, converting at a 24.1%.
Green’s teammate, Nicklas Backstrom, is a highly underrated player playing on the Caps top line with superstar Ovechkin. It could have been a tight vote between Backstrom and Mike Richards for second overall in voting.
Ryan Miller has been solid for the Sabres all season; indeed one of the main reasons Buffalo enjoys a 10-point cushion in the Northeastern Division. He holds a 26-8-4 record along with posting 5 shutouts. He’s on pace to play close to 70 games this season and Buffalo fans should have full confidence in Miller’s durability.
LW – Dany Heatley (Sharks)
C – Henrik Sedin (Canucks)
RW – Patrick Kane (Blackhawks)
D – Duncan Keith (Blackhawks)
D – Stephane Robidas (Stars)
G – Miikka Kiprusoff (Flames)
Honorable Mention: Patrick Marleau
Analysis: The Blackhawks have been playing great hockey all season, so it’s no surprise two of their top stars would start an All-Star Game. Patrick Kane has 56 points (20G, 36A) this season in 49 games, likely to set career highs in a number of categories. Duncan Keith has been a surprise this season. He signed a 13-year, $72 million contract in early December and thus far as shown up, producing 34 assists and 44 points.
Dany Heatley gets the nod over Patrick Marleau for the LW start. Heatley came to San Jose over the summer from Ottawa after a lengthy and public souring relationship with and lack of interest playing for Senators. He’s responded well playing on a line with Joe Thornton and Marleau, including 13 points on the power play.
Not to downplay the Marleau’s 32 goals and an overall resurgence of his game since being stripped of the Shark’s captaincy, but Heatley gets an extra point for coming to a new city and meshing so well with his new teammates.
Goaltender selections came down to Miikka Kiprusoff and Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov has been a stellar game in front of a team that four months ago wasn’t guaranteed to remain in Phoenix, posting a 25-12 record with five shutouts. However, Kiprusoff is the better goalie and has been an elite netminder for the past few seasons. The Flames in front of him will eventually get their offense going which will result in increases in Kipper’s already stellar numbers.
What do you think? Anyone left off who should be starting? Weigh in below with your comments.