Wednesday, January 24, 2007

West 12 East 9

It was kind of predictable that the 55th NHL All Star Game was a wide open shootout with no defense to be found. It was during our NY Hockey Report show that I laughed at how Montreal defenseman Sheldon Souray backed in allowing a free path to the net for Western sniper Teemu Selanne.

That's the kind of fast paced game it was. Lots of skating, free wheeling and skill was on display. The goalies were left to fend for themselves.

Still though, from what we saw, it looked like a lot of fun to watch. The thing I enjoyed the most was the nifty goalie mic they had on Stars netminder Marty Turco during the final period. It was an interactive mic where he could hear the Versus team of Doc Emrick and Ed Olczyk and communicate with them throughout while play was going on. It was a bundle of laughs. One time when he was scored on, the former University of Michigan product told Ottawa's Dany Heatley to "Get out of here. Go celebrate somewhere else." How could a fan not love that? It's seeing the game within the game.

I particularly also liked when the East came in 2-on-1 and Marian Hossa setup Zdeno Chara on the doorstep for their second goal of the period just out of the reach of Turco's outstretched stack of the pads. Afterwards, he admitted to the guys that "I should have had it," going on to add that he correctly anticipated the pass but just missed getting there.

This was really cool to see a goalie provide such info. Imagine if they added that for a few regular season network telecasts. Aside from that, just listening to Turco's back and forth dialogue with Emrick was classic. He really seemed to be enjoying himself and even made some tough stops right after some plays developed. It was kind of ironic that after Martin Havlat scored to put it out of reach, the chatty netminder informed the guys that he needed to give up one more goal to get the victory. Fast forward to a Souray rush and blast which made it 11-9, ensuring him of that win, stopping 12 of 15.

Of course, what would it be without a funny bounce providing a comical conclusion? With Montreal goalie Cristobal Huet pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf rocketed a clear off the boards that the puck took a weird hop and went directly into the vacated net 180 feet away.

In a losing effort, Buffalo's Daniel Briere was chosen as Game MVP. He picked up the first goal of the night and later added four assists for a game best five points. While he shined, top vote getter Sidney Crosby didn't manage to get on the scoresheet in his first All Star appearance. Kind of weird considering there were so many goals scored which left the 19 year-old to remark:

"There were 21 goals, you think I would have had one. I guess it wasn't meant to be. I had a few chances, it just didn't work out."

Maybe in future years, the wiz kid will get his chance to dominate. I'm sure it made my cohost Gary Harding's night that he was not only without a point but tied for a game worst minus-five. Somewhere Mr. Harding is laughing. He disdains Crosby with a passion.

Meanwhile, 2005-06 Calder winner Alexander Ovechkin scored his first career goal in the big game. But it wasn't his night to shine either.

Elder statesman Joe Sakic registered four assists in his 12th appearance to surpass Mark Messier's record of 14, lifting his total to 16. He now trails just Wayne Gretzky (25 pts) and Mario Lemieux (23) for the all-time lead in points. It just goes to show how brilliant a career the former 2001 Hart winner has had. Sure, he's played mostly in the shadows of No.99 and No.66 as well as Messier, Steve Yzerman and even Jaromir Jagr. But Sakic is one of the greatest players of our time. The best part about the original Nordiques' 1987 15th overall pick is that he's played his entire 19-year career with the Nords/Avalanche franchise. Already having led them to two Stanley Cups, the classy 37 year-old shows no signs of slowing down. He leads the revamped Avs in goals (20), assists (32), points (52, power play goals (10) and power play points (23). He's proven once again how valuable he is. The future Hall of Famer is six goals away from 600, needs 53 assists to reach 1000 and is 59 points shy of 1600. Amazing stuff from an very gifted player. Congrats in advance Joe!

For the locals, it was a fairly quiet night on the stat sheet. Martin Brodeur was victimized for six goals on 16 shots in a second period Western onslaught. Hey. He is human and it's an exhibition. But I was remarking to Greg of Sports Fan Magazine before that he looked fat in that new Reebok "form fitting jersey." It left us both to wonder how the three-time Cup winner, soon to be three-time Vezina winner and gold medallist could make some of the athletic stops he does. It's one of life's wonders.

Teammate Brian Rafalski notched two assists in defeat. Meanwhile, in his debut All Star contest, the Isles' Jason Blake also collected a pair of helpers. The lone Ranger representative and East team captain Brendan Shanahan was kept off the scoresheet.

Among the standouts included first-time All Star Yanic Perreault. All the overlooked 'Yotes center did was score twice and finish plus-five. Rick Nash had a couple of goals and assists for a four point outburst as did Brian Rolston. Martin Havlat added two goals and a helper.

In a losing effort, Boston's Zdeno Chara tallied twice but didn't become the first defenseman to record a hat trick in the celebrated game. Marian Hossa finished with four assists and Dany Heatley had a goal and two assists.

The only goalie who allowed less than three goals out of the six was Huet, who allowed just two get by him in the third on 10 shots.

Here are lots of pics from the game courtesy of yahoo:

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