The 2017 NHL All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles has quickly passed, concluding with a dramatic championship game that saw the Metropolitan Division defeat the Pacific Division 4-3 in the finale after each team scored 10 goals in their first game to advance to the title contest.
Even though the All-Star Weekend came and went in a hurry, it has left us with a few topics of discussion. Here are my three main takeaways from Sunday’s All-Star game.
1. Crosby and Ovechkin Have Zero Chemistry
It was no surprise that Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin were selected into the NHL’s list of top 100 players to ever play in the league. The two have been superstars ever since they were drafted first overall in back-to-back seasons, Ovechkin in 2004 and Crosby in 2005.
Crosby and Ovechkin are arguably the two best players in the NHL right now, so when they both were selected to play in the All-Star Game, most fans were excited for the opportunity to see the two play as linemates for the Metropolitan Division team.
Fans got their wish, but it didn’t exactly live up to expectations.
Crosby and Ovechkin were paired together on the top line for the Metro as the most dangerous offensive duo. However, they underwhelmed as linemates and it showed on the score sheet.
Neither of them looked comfortable playing with each other as both appeared out of sync for the vast majority of both games. I can’t say I’m shocked, given the fact they have been playing against each other as rivals since they both came into the league. But I expected the superstars, two of the best players in the history of the sport, to steal the show while lighting up the scoreboard.
They actually took a back seat to the other Metropolitan action. Each recorded a goal and assist in the first game, but neither registered a point and were both minus-2 in the final.
They might pretend to be buddies, but outside fun events such as the All-Star Game, they are rivals, which could help explain the lack of synergy while playing together.
2. Defense and Goaltending Matter
The All-Star game is supposed to be fun and no player wants to get injured. I don’t blame them for not giving 100% effort every shift.
But if a team wants to win the $1 million prize and the All-Star championship, that team must play solid enough defensively in front of great goaltending.
Players could get away with defensive breakdowns a little more when the All-Star game was 5-on-5 but with the new 3-on-3 format, mistakes in any zone will lead to odd-man rushes or breakaways for their opponent. Pair that with an inability to make some key saves and what you have is a losing team.
Metropolitan goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby showed why they’re two of the best in the world, making multiple big saves in both games, but especially in the championship game. Holtby shut out the Pacific Division in the second half of the final game with help from a coach’s challenge and the boot of defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 29, 2017
McDonagh’s kick save at the goal line in the final minute saved the game and secured the championship for the Metropolitan all-stars. But it wasn’t just McDonagh. Various members of the Metro, including Ovechkin, were hitting the ice to block shots and placing their sticks in passing lanes. They wanted to win the game and that $1 million check certainly didn’t hurt either.
They didn’t have to go all out. They didn’t have to be perfect. All they needed was enough effort, solid (enough) defense and stellar (enough) goaltending to win the game.
3. Atkinson Is More Than an All-Star Replacement
Every year, there are players who get snubbed from the All-Star game. The NHL can’t just take the top 40 goal scorers or point-getters in the league. Every NHL team has to have at least one representative but not every team has a true all-star on their roster. Some years, there are teams with two or more players worthy of a selection. It’s tough for the NHL to create an all-star roster that everyone is happy with.
Not many fans in Columbus were happy with Cam Atkinson being left off the original Metropolitan Division roster. But when the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin went down with an injury less than a week before the All-Star game, Atkinson got the call that he would replace Malkin on the Metropolitan Division team.
Atkinson put on a show with a total of three goals and two assists in his team’s two games, looking like a superstar in his own right. He also hit two or three posts, one of those coming in the championship game. Perhaps if one of those goes in, Atkinson would have driven away with a new truck as the All-Star MVP. However, it was his Metropolitan Division teammate, Wayne Simmonds, that took home the honor at the end of the festivities.
Atkinson proved he deserved to be in the All-Star game in the first place, not just as a backup plan. His 24 goals are tied for second in the NHL and his 46 points leads all Blue Jackets — both of which are career highs for him.
I have no clue what else he had to do in order to catch the eye of the NHL, but add them to list of doubters Atkinson has proved wrong over his entire hockey career.