Predicting the Results of the 3-on-3 All-Star Tournament

Carol Schram@pool88Featured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2016

Predicting the Results of the 3-on-3 All-Star Tournament

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    The National Hockey League's All-Star Weekend is getting a facelift for its 2016 edition in Nashville, Tennessee, from Jan. 29 to 31.

    Gone is the Friday night fantasy draft. NHL.com reports that it will be replaced by a one-hour variety special called "NHL All-Star Friday Night: Live in Music City." On Saturday, the Skills Competition will take place, and then Sunday will mark the debut of the league's new 3-on-3 All-Star Tournament.

    According to NHL.com, three 3-on-3 games will be played. Each game will be 20 minutes in length, with teams changing ends at the 10-minute mark. 

    The Eastern Conference teams from the Metropolitan and Atlantic Divisions will kick things off at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, followed by the Western Conference battle between the Central and Pacific Divisions at 6 p.m. ET.

    The winners of those two semifinals will then participate in the championship game at 7 p.m. ET. The team that wins the final game will earn a $1 million winner-take-all cash prize, to be split among the participants. 

    There's no word yet on how a tie would be resolved in any of the rounds. It might make sense for the deployment to stay at 3-on-3 in an extra-time, sudden-death format.

    Each division's team will be made up of six forwards, three defensemen and two goaltenders, basically giving coaches three different line combinations to use.

    Here's a look at the rosters for each of the four divisions, their strengths and weaknesses and how they'll match up against each other as the tournament unfolds.

Metropolitan Division

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    Forwards

    • Nicklas Backstrom - Washington Capitals
    • Claude Giroux - Philadelphia Flyers
    • Evgeni Malkin - Pittsburgh Penguins
    • Alex Ovechkin (captain) - Washington Capitals
    • Brandon Saad - Columbus Blue Jackets
    • John Tavares - New York Islanders  

    Defense

    • Justin Faulk - Carolina Hurricanes
    • Kris Letang - Pittsburgh Penguins
    • Ryan McDonagh - New York Rangers

    Goal

    • Braden Holtby - Washington Capitals
    • Cory Schneider - New Jersey Devils 

    Coach: Barry Trotz - Washington Capitals

    Barry Trotz's Washington Capitals have been the class of the NHL for the first half of the 2015-16, so they haven't needed to go to overtime very often. The Caps lead the league with 35 wins. According to Sporting Charts, 30 of those wins have come in regulation time—also tops in the NHL.

    Washington has played past 60 minutes just eight times this season. They're 3-2 in overtime and 2-1 in shootouts. There's a chance that Trotz might be hampered strategically by his relatively limited three-on-three experience compared to some of his counterparts.

Atlantic Division

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    Forwards

    • Patrice Bergeron - Boston Bruins
    • Jaromir Jagr (captain) - Florida Panthers
    • Leo Komarov - Toronto Maple Leafs
    • Dylan Larkin - Detroit Red Wings
    • Ryan O'Reilly - Buffalo Sabres
    • Steven Stamkos - Tampa Bay Lightning 

    Defense

    • Aaron Ekblad - Florida Panthers
    • Erik Karlsson - Ottawa Senators
    • P.K. Subban - Montreal Canadiens 

    Goal

    • Ben Bishop - Tampa Bay Lightning
    • Roberto Luongo - Florida Panthers 

    Coach: Gerard Gallant - Florida Panthers

    Gerard Gallant will have three members of his surprising Florida Panthers on his Atlantic Division All-Star team, but his captain Jaromir Jagr is a reluctant participant—and three-on-three has been a weak spot in the Sunshine State this season.

    According to Sporting Charts, 11 of the Panthers' 49 games this season have gone past 60 minutes, but the Panthers have won just once in overtime. The team has recorded four losses at three-on-three but does well in the shootout, where it is 5-1. 

    Gallant doesn't appear to have unlocked the winning formula for three-on-three, and he may not have much chance of getting a good effort out of Jagr in the tournament.

Central Division

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    Forwards

    • Jamie Benn - Dallas Stars
    • Matt Duchene - Colorado Avalanche
    • Patrick Kane (captain) - Chicago Blackhawks
    • Tyler Seguin - Dallas Stars
    • Vladimir Tarasenko - St. Louis Blues
    • Jonathan Toews - Chicago Blackhawks 

    Defense

    • Dustin Byfuglien - Winnipeg Jets
    • Roman Josi - Nashville Predators
    • Shea Weber - Nashville Predators

    Goal

    • Devan Dubnyk - Minnesota Wild
    • Pekka Rinne - Nashville Predators 

    Coach: Lindy Ruff - Dallas Stars

    When I look at Lindy Ruff having the chance to coach the Dallas Stars' dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for the Central Division, I see success. Interestingly, however, the Stars have won just three overtime games this season, according to Sporting Charts. They have also lost three in overtime and have gone 2-2 in shootouts.

    The Central Division holds one big advantage over the other All-Star Teams—player familiarity. As well as Benn and Seguin being teammates, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks were both named to the forward ranks. Regular defense partners Roman Josi and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators will also both suit up on the blue line, potentially offering Ruff a one-two deployment option if it suits his needs.

Pacific Division

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    Forwards

    • Johnny Gaudreau - Calgary Flames
    • Taylor Hall - Edmonton Oilers
    • Joe Pavelski - San Jose Sharks
    • Corey Perry - Anaheim Ducks
    • John Scott (captain) - ex-Arizona Coyotes
    • Daniel Sedin - Vancouver Canucks 

    Defense

    • Brent Burns - San Jose Sharks
    • Drew Doughty - Los Angeles Kings
    • Mark Giordano - Calgary Flames 

    Goal

    • John Gibson - Anaheim Ducks
    • Jonathan Quick - Los Angeles Kings 

    Coach: Darryl Sutter - Los Angeles Kings

    Darryl Sutter's overtime record is the best of the four coaches who will work at All-Star Weekend. According to Sporting Charts, his Los Angeles Kings are 7-1 in games decided at three-on-three and 2-2 in games that have gone to the shootout.

    Sutter will have the opportunity to rely on his trusted top defenseman, Drew Doughty, and goaltender Jonathan Quick. Will he be able to get longtime Los Angeles rivals like Anaheim's Corey Perry, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin and San Jose's Brent Burns on board?

    And how will the AHL's John Scott fit into the proceedings? That could be the biggest curiosity of the weekend.

Atlantic vs. Metropolitan

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    In essence, the Eastern Conference semifinal boils down to the Washington Capitals vs. the Florida Panthers. Both teams will go into the All-Star break at the top of their respective divisions and have placed the most players on their All-Star squads.

    However, the 12-point difference between the Capitals and Panthers in the standings is probably a good indicator of which team will prevail in Nashville on Sunday.

    Metropolitan Division coach Barry Trotz may not be the most seasoned bench boss in the tournament when it comes to three-on-three, but he'll have a chance to deploy one of the most effective offensive pairs in the game in Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom—two players he knows well. His Capitals goaltender, Braden Holtby, is also the Vezina Trophy favorite through the first half of the season.

    In the Atlantic, Gerard Gallant will have plenty of incentive to play his captain Jaromir Jagr as little as possible as he thinks ahead to the Florida Panthers' stretch run and playoff situation. Though Jagr is known for his grueling training schedule, the 43-year-old initially tried to discourage fans from voting him into the three-on-three tournament.

    On Jan. 23, Jagr told George Richards of the Miami Herald that he will travel to Nashville rather than skip the game. Still, don't expect to see him firing on all cylinders.

    A good chunk of the forward minutes for Team Atlantic may end up distributed to enthusiastic first-time All-Stars Dylan Larkin, Leo Komarov and Ryan O'Reilly. Gallant will also be able to ignite plenty of firepower with his defense.

    Head-to-head, give the Metropolitan Division group the edge in chemistry, enthusiasm for the event and in goal. Aaron Ekblad, Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban make a nice defensive group for the Atlantic, but they won't be able to do enough to deliver a win. 

    Prediction: Metropolitan Division 7, Atlantic Division 4

Pacific vs. Central

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    In addition to leaning on his players Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin up front, Central Division coach Lindy Ruff will also have the opportunity to pair NHL leading scorer Patrick Kane with his Chicago Blackhawks teammate Jonathan Toews. Not bad—and that leaves Ruff with a skilled and speedy third forward pairing of Matt Duchene and Vladimir Tarasenko.

    The Central will also boast arguably the tournament's toughest defense, though their goaltending tandem of Dubnyk and Rinne is below the standard of some of the other divisions.

    As for Pacific Division coach Daryl Sutter, he may choose to deploy Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano together and do the same with San Jose's Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns. In addition to Sutter's strong three-on-three record, the Flames are one of the NHL's better overtime teams this year, with an 8-1 record. The Sharks are also a solid 4-3.

    The big question for the Pacific team—how will captain John Scott be used? Will his poor skating be a liability, will Sutter deploy him sparingly, or will the issue be moot when the three-on-three games are played as nonchalantly as traditional All-Star Games we've seen in past years?

    After all the discussion about whether or not Scott would get his chance to skate in Nashville, there's a chance that players on both sides could set him up for a star turn. Scott has been a teammate of Pavelski and Burns' with the Sharks and, further back, with Kane and Toews in Chicago. 

    Looking at the lineups, the Central Division appears to have this game in the bag. The possibility of a John Scott sideshow leaves the door open for anything to happen. 

    Prediction: Central Division 6, Pacific Division 5

Final Game: Metropolitan vs. Central

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    Through games completed Jan. 26, the Metropolitan Division's Washington Capitals top the NHL standings with 73 points. The next three spots are all taken up by teams from the Central—Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis—so it's fitting that players from those two divisions are likely to square off in the tournament final Sunday.

    In the second and final round, expect to see a slow pace compared to the tournament's earlier games. Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers will step up his game to provide some shutdown defense in front of Braden Holtby and Cory Schneider, while Shea Weber does the same for the Central Division side, backstopped by Dubnyk and Rinne.

    It's tough to bet against the depth of the Central Division team—or against Toews and Kane in any sort of sudden-death situation. But Barry Trotz will continue his stretch of brilliant coaching, which will earn him and his team the bragging rights—and the million-dollar purse—Sunday. 

    Prediction: Metropolitan Division 4, Central Division 3

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