A shootout in the All-Star Game. It could have been the perfect time for the Dallas Stars defenseman to make his first shootout attempt.
Well, actually Robidas said the only time he has ever taken a turn in the shootout was during a preseason game prior to the start of last season. He didn't lobby Stars coach Dave Tippett then, but he should have lobbied West coach Todd McLellan tonight.
Robidas instead chose to stay quiet, lie in the weeds so to speak. McLellan never thought of him and instead went with the popular choices of Shane Doan and Rick Nash.
Robidas could have done just as well as those two. In fact, so could have Shea Weber and Brian Campbell. They also have never participated in a shootout in their careers. Mike Komisarek was the only player from the East squad who had never done it.
The shootout should have come down to them. The entertainment value would have been great.
Instead, we got the known danglers, but Doan, who won the Gatorade Shootout Elimination Shootout Saturday night, and Nash were each stoned by Tim Thomas.
The defensemen should have at least lobbied for a chance, but they're all too humble to do something like that. If I had known earlier, maybe I would have done it for them. Then again, does anyone really think McLellan would listen to me?
Fat chance, but it would have been worth the try.
-- Dan Rosen
The place to be
Jan. 24, 6:16 PM
Perks of the job, folks. Perks of the job.
I just returned to my computer after standing between the benches, literally pushed up against the glass, for the opening ceremonies of the 2009 Honda/NHL All-Star SuperSkills Competition.
I was packed in there like a sardine, but it was a really cool place to be, somewhere I've never been before for anything, let alone an event like this.
There was great energy in the building in the 15 minutes before the players were introduced. A local house band wailed away, playing some classic tunes before going into "We Will Rock You" and eventually "Ole, ole, ole."
It was after that the Roberto Luongo became the first player introduced to the sellout and ridiculously loud Bell Centre crowd. Luongo, a hometown boy from nearby St. Leonard, got a huge ovation. So, too, did Stephane Robidas, who came out next.
The rest of the Western Conference All-Stars were announced with each getting a good cheer, but Jarome Iginla, Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Scott Niedermayer got loud ovations before Sheldon Souray was welcomed back to Montreal in boisterous fashion. He got the loudest ovation of all the Western players.
The East was next and, rightfully so, Mark Streit was the first to come out. The place was rocking for the former Canadiens' defenseman. After Jay Bouwmeester, the fans welcomed home Vinny Lecavalier to a long, standing, roar. I mean, this was unbelievable. Lecavalier, who has been the subject of trade rumors between the Lightning and Canadiens, stood at the blue line in awe. It was amazing. The announcer properly didn't interrupt the crowd. He let them go and go and go and go.
Finally, Alex Ovechkin appeared on the giant videoboard and he was introduced. Ovechkin came out and said something to Lecavalier. I imagine it went something like this:
"I can't believe I had to follow you, follow that."
Tomas Kaberle of Toronto got booed. So, too, did Boston's trio of Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard. Evgeni Malkin got a nice ovation and so did Martin St. Louis.
And, then, the Canadiens de Montreal were announced.
Mike Komisarek was introduced first. Then Andrei Markov, Alex Kovalev and finally, Carey Price.
Komisarek was clearly touched by the ovation he got. I turned and saw Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau, who was standing to my left on the East's bench, laugh as Markov came out.
You have to know that Markov is not one to show too much emotion, and Carbonneau was making fun of him for it.
When it was all over, the players stood at their respective blue lines and these hockey faithful kept cheering them on.
It was quite a scene.
YoungStars speak of SuperSkills invasion plan
Jan. 24, 6:16 PM
Steven Stamkos is barging his way into the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge spotlight. But, he is playing down his chances of walking away with the trick-shot title.
"It's a little short notice, so I'm going to have to use some of my improv skills here," Stamkos told NHL.com. "I have a few up my sleeve, a couple. I'm not guaranteeing anything, though."
One of Stamkos' tricks is pretty famous. During a skills competition in a Ontario Hockey League, Stamkos pulled off a behind-the-back, top-shelf beauty. Don't believe me? Check it out on YouTube.
The young entrants into the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater weren't as confident as Stamkos, at least in their comments to Dan.
"You never know what could happen I guess, but I'll try to make every stride count and hopefully I'll be able to pull off a good time," Vancouver's Mason Raymond said. "I did it last year in our team skills competition and I want to say my time was 14-something (seconds). I don't think that's going to cut it here. I'll have to shave off a second."
Edmonton's Andrew Cogliano is getting a lot of hype because insiders love his ability to skate. But, he is nowhere near as enamored with his own skill set it seems.
"I don't know, I was kind of hoping to lie in the weeds a bit," Cogliano told Rosen. "I already lost on my team. Erik Cole beat me. He had a 13.1 and I had a 13.6 I think. I don't know if that's going to be good enough here."
--Shawn P. Roarke
It seems the YoungStars are feeling their oats here in Montreal
Youth part of SuperSkills trophy ceremonies
Jan. 24, 5:55 PM
Honda NHL SuperSkills figures to be especially super for five Montreal youth hockey players. The local Ahuntsic Hockey Club will be providing young and able assistants to help hand out trophies Saturday night (Versus, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio, XM Radio, 7 p.m. ET).
The fortunate five are Arno Desjardins, 7; Edouard Traore, 7; Guillaume Guilmette Major, 12; Elliot Parent, 10; and Marie-Christine Major, 11. They are all hockey-playing members of the Ahuntsic club, which is a participating program in the NHL's Hockey is for Everyone initiative.
From the humble beginnings of two teams playing each in a local park during the 1950s, the Ahuntsic Braves have become one of the frontrunners in minor hockey in Montreal and recognized throughout the province for its inclusive policies. What's more, Ahuntsic is 100-percent operated by volunteers.
The club's widespread footprint took its first big step in the summer of 1956, when two parents approached Borden Bossy, father of NHL Hall of Famer Mike Bossy. Later that year, two sons of another Hall of Famer, Maurice Richard, joined the club. The Canadiens legend volunteered his time during the formative years.
Today, more than 800 youngsters play for one of Ahuntsic's 55 registered teams. The players range in age from 3 to 21. More than 200 volunteers dedicate their free time across three home arenas. On those arena walls? Some notable alumni, including Mike Bossy, Carol Vadnais, Marc Denis, Marco Baron, and Normand Leveille.
-- Bob Condor
YoungStars invade SuperSkills
Jan. 24, 4:39 PM
Word is breaking this afternoon that a trio of YoungStars are crashing Honda/NHL SuperSkills tonight.
Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos, the No. 1 pick in this year's Entry Draft, is ready to go toe-to-toe with the greatest goal scorers in the game today in the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge.
Stamkos must think he has a great trick-shot routine up his sleeve if he plans to take on Alex Ovechkin, Ryan Getzlaf, Martin St. Louis, Patrick Kane and hometown favorite Alex Kovalev in the Breakaway Challenge, which will be judged by the fans and the other All-Stars in text-message voting.
It will be an uphill challenge for Stamkos as most of his competition has been perfecting routines for the better part of a week. Stamkos and Tampa Bay teammate Martin St. Louis, a late substitution for the injured Sidney Crosby, will have to fly by the seat of their pants.
At least Edmonton's Andrew Cogliano and Vancouver's Mason Raymond have some empirical evidence that they can go stride-for-stride with their elders in the Bridgestone NHL Faster Skater.
Our colleague John McGourty did an interesting story on the fastest skaters in the league recently and Bob Davidge, a skating instructor and announcer for the Columbus Blue Jackets, said Cogliano might be the biggest speed demon of them all. But, he put Raymond in the conversation.
"I think Andrew Cogliano is the fastest skater in the NHL," Davidge said. "I watched him when he played for (the University of) Michigan and he'd just pull away from guys in the first three or four strides. (Calgary’s) Matt Lombardi and Mason Raymond are like that, the first three strides and look out -- they're on their way."
But these young pups with the fresh legs will have some competition.
New Jersey's Zach Parise is sneaky fast and has been taking power-skating classes since he turned pro. Philadelphia youngster Jeff Carter looks like a gazelle when he gets his long legs turning and Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester might be the most fluid skater to break into the game in the past few years. And, let's not forget Chicago's Brian Campbell, the greybeard of the competition at 29.
--Shawn P. Roarke
Jan. 24, 4:00 PM
On my 384th day on the job at NHL.com, I believe I've finally reached the mountaintop.
Early Saturday morning and prior to the practice session for each Conference preparing for the 57th NHL All-Star Game in Montreal, I was informed that NHL legends Gordie Howe, Johnny Bower, Frank Mahovlich and Guy Lafleur would be heading into each dressing room and it would be my job to join them.
Are you kidding me!
I had the chance to actually chat with each legend individually and, as I expected, they were humble, cooperative and just happy to be there. Needless to say, so was I. I felt like a kid again, but remembered my reason for being there and immediately went to work.
I shook Howe's hand and it enveloped mine. In fact, Ilya Kovalchuk was in awe of Howe's hands. He looked up at me after Howe introduced himself and said, "He just told me his hands were too big for my glove." Funny stuff.
The great thing about all this was I actually had the chance to help out these gentlemen while they went from stall to stall to introduce themselves to the 2009 All Stars. I pointed out Vinny Lecavalier to Bower. "He's a special kid," Bower told me.
I informed Howe that Jarome Iginla had just entered the Western Conference dressing room and he quickly turned to the Flames captain and, before cameras and a television crew, began chatting. It was quite a scene. Howe's a pretty funny guy -- he was telling jokes and tapping the caps of all the young kids milling around the locker room with their dads.
I had a long talk with Mahovlich. He was telling me a funny story about how during last year's All-Star Game in Atlanta, his wife set up a surprise 70th birthday party celebration for him in Florida. He also told me that Ken "The Rat" Linesman, who assisted on the final goal of Mahovlichs' career in 1977-78 with the WHA's Birmingham Bulls, recently called him and asked, "Are you still good looking?"
The cameras were snapping and the video rolling when Howe strolled into the Eastern Conference locker room and came face to face with Ovie. My fondest moment was, while standing beside Mahovlich, looking at Ovie's sticks and commenting on the curvature. "That's illegal," Mahovlich told me. More memorable quotes!
Lafleur took five minutes to chat Montreal Canadiens hockey and he was all smiles. When I asked him about the importance of having the legends meet with the stars of today, Lafleur felt it was extremely important and meaningful for both sides -- class personified.
Howe couldn't get over the size of the locker rooms. Neither could Bower.
"Heck, when I walked into a locker room, there was a wall and a hook and that was it," Bower told me while we walked down the corridor to the Eastern Conference dressing room.
I found it interesting how Bower commented on Columbus Blue Jackets rookie goalie Steve Mason and how he would have liked to chat with him. Unfortunately, the injured Mason wasn't available, but Bower certainly took the time to chat with all the goalies present. Mahovlich and Bower sat beside Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who was obviously star-struck.
I'll have an opportunity to chat with another legend this evening -- Mark Messier.
It's a day I'll remember for the rest of my life.
--Mike G. Morreale
And, the advantage goes to...
Jan. 24, 2:14 PM
"There are so many good players that I'm happy if I'm 50-50," he said. "When I picked the names every time I was like, 'Oh my god, this is going to be a tough one.' "
Roberto Luongo couldn't have said it better himself.
"If you look at the numbers, the goalie stops over 60 percent on shootouts so I think the goalies have the advantage," the Canucks captain told NHL.com, "but at the same time these are the best players in the League so maybe now you can narrow it down to 50-50."
Niklas Backstrom said normally goalies have a scouting report on the potential shootout competitors, but he expects some of the players to pull out some nifty moves tonight.
"You scout so you have a clue about what they're going to do, but I don't know how they're going to do it here," Backstrom told NHL.com. "You maybe just try to read and react and hope you don't make a fool out of yourself. You don't want to find yourself in the corner. It's a big challenge. You're probably going to see some new moves there.
"I don't know, hope you get lucky?"
-- Dan Rosen
Jan. 24, 10:27 AM
The winding red carpet awaited me last night and I got a chance to walk it, but nobody asked me who I was wearing or how I was feeling heading into the big night.
Then again, nobody asked me a darn thing. Wait, isn't it my job to ask the questions?
The Hockey News held its All-Star Party Friday night and I was lucky enough to score a ticket to the gala event. Luminaries such as NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA Executive Director Paul Kelly and Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey were on hand.
So were All-Stars Zach Parise, Jeff Carter, Brian Campbell, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Getzlaf and Keith Tkachuk. Mark Messier showed up, too. I'm sure there were others that I didn't notice, and you know what, they all walked the red carpet. They all got interviewed. Even the Stanley Cup was there for two hours, but I don't think it got the red carpet treatment.
Once inside the monster event I was taken aback by the wonderful room. The dance floor was a faux hockey rink, complete with boards. Outside the boards were wonderful and colorful action framed photos of current and former Montreal Canadiens players. Getty Images superstar Bruce Bennett told me he did all the enlarging of the images.
Replica covers of past issues of The Hockey News blown up into giant posters that were scattered all over the walls. There were two bars made completely out of ice. No seriously, I'm not kidding. They were made to look like alters and carved out of ice. A replica of the Stanley Cup, also carved out of ice, was sitting on top of each of the bars.
They were dripping, though, and the bevy of beautiful bartenders wearing sleeveless outfits were cold, but happy to be pouring drinks until early Saturday morning.
There were many white-gloved servers walking around with various appetizers. They had this little ham and cheese (fromage) thing that was ridiculous. I also tried something else (I seriously don't know what it was), and I had to be the silly American who spit it out. God awful. The rest was OK, though.
After walking through the main room with the DJ and the dance floor you stepped into what can loosely be called the food locker room. I'm not kidding.
The buffet line formed there and you had everything from shrimp cocktail with guacamole (a combination I never had before, but was very delicious), sesame beef balls, ceviche (Shawn Roarke tells me that's how you spell it), coconut shrimp, game sausage, foccacia bread, and salmon and cream cheese appetizers. It was a good table, but just wait...
When you walked past the bar to the right of the buffet table you stumbled across the gold mine of the entire party. A carving station with smoke beef sandwiches, and...wait for it....POUTINE!
I'm never one who really likes to blog about food, but this was just too good not to mention.
I mentioned locker room above because right in the area of that carving station was a replica locker room with two long benches meeting in the corner. They had jerseys of all 30 teams plus some old school jerseys from the Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques and Minnesota North Stars. I saw some skates, pads, gloves, etc. on shelves.
It was a pretty cool look, and a good place to sit down and enjoy your beverage or putin.
They were giving away various items, including Blackberry Curves (Shawn Roarke won one of them), framed photos, an LCD TV and the big prize, a trip for two to Maui.
You had to reach into a bowl and pull out a piece of paper. It would tell you if you were a lucky winner of an item or if you were the loser. My wife is right. I never win at these things and I failed her again.
However, as I was standing with Shawn and NHL.com Editor-In-Chief Bob Condor we met Kevin Lovitt, who works on the business desk for the NHLPA.
Kevin reached into the bowl and picked out two winners. He landed the framed photo of Bobby Hull, which he said he will get signed, and the framed photo of Don Cherry that is already signed.
No joke, the photo is of Cherry wearing a cowboy hat. It's priceless.
Since it was a party, you listen for certain sounds. The first spill of the night occurred at 9:45, just 45 minutes after the doors swung open for the party. Good job by that person.
The first All-Star I saw was Keith Tkachuk, who told me he was having a blast and had never been to an event like this before. One of my favorite moments of the night was when I saw Tkachuk pose for a photo with Bettman.
I was standing near the red carpet area taking stock of who was arriving when Jeff Carter strolled in with two of buddies from back home in London, Ont. As Jeff walked the red carpet, Gord and Reg stood with me, pointing their fingers at him and laughing.
Gord was particularly talkative (Reg disappeared to the bar rather quickly). Gord told me, "He's a small town boy like us," which is why Jeff looked a little out of place on a red carpet.
Gainey delivered a bi-lingual toast to the crowd. It was quite a scene. When people heard Gainey was going to be talking in the front room by the dance floor, most everybody in the party made their way from the food locker room to the front.
They move in unison in this town when Bob stands at the podium. He's a legend.
All in all it was a great and memorable night. I got to enjoy a few cocktails and on the sly took some notes. I'd do it again. The privilege was seriously all mine, even if I didn't get to walk the red carpet.
Just so you know, it was suit pants from Michael Kors, a black sweater from the gap over a white dress shirt (don't know the maker) and a tie. Dapper, simply dapper.
-- Dan Rosen
Jan. 23, 7:37 PM
A message to Alex Ovechkin, Alex Kovalev, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrick Kane and Martin St. Louis:
Patrick Marleau is taking bribes.
That's right boys, pony up and you'll get Marleau's vote in the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge.
OK, he was just kidding when he said it (we think?), but the players, just like the fans, will have a vote Saturday night after the main event is over. I'm told each player will have a phone in his locker stall that he can use to vote via text message.
I hope they have instructions on how to use the phones, too. That would be key.
With that in mind, we decided to canvass the crowd at the two media availabilities today to see who some of the All-Stars think will win.
Roberto Luongo said his money is on "the underdog, St. Louis, because of a couple of the shootout moves I've seen him do in a game. I'm sure he'll have something up his sleeve."
Just to be clear, Getzlaf also said he thinks St. Louis is going to win, but he hopes to have some say in the matter.
Kovalev got votes from Niklas Backstrom and his teammates, Carey Price and Mike Komisarek.
Backstrom said he would have picked Pavel Datsyuk if the Detroit star was here, but "I guess I'd have to with Kovalev" now, he added. "It's going to be him. He's got some pretty good moves."
"I got to go with my guy Kovy," Komisarek said. "I've seen this guy pull moves in practice that just leaves your mouth hanging wide open. I got my money on Kovy."
Have you seen him practice, Mike?
"I think when he was born he came out stickhandling and with breakaway moves," he said. "The puck is just glued to his stick sometimes."
"Kovy," Price proclaimed.
"Because he's ridiculous," the goalie responded. "He's going to pull something, I don't know what, but it's going to be sick."
Marleau and Ilya Kovalchuk each picked the defending champion, Ovechkin.
"Ovechkin is going to win," Kovalchuk said without hesitation. "Kovalev is another good one and he's here at home, but I like Ovechkin."
OK, gotta ask you why, Kovy?
"Because I'm going to be there to pump him up," he said.
Not to be forgotten, Dany Heatley said the winner will come down to Getzlaf or Kane. Personally I think it's a cop-out that he couldn't pick one, but we'll let him slide ... for now.
"Those guys are smooth and they'll pull something out of their bag (of tricks), I'm sure."
Money works, too, right Marleau?
-- Dan Rosen
St. Louis set for Breakaway Challenge
Jan. 23, 11:26 AM
That's the news of the morning here at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, the NHL's headquarters for All-Star Weekend.
St. Louis can dangle with the best of them, and you better believe that Alex Ovechkin, Alex Kovalev, Patrick Kane and Ryan Getzlaf know that, too.
If they needed proof, we offer to them St. Louis' shootout goal that confounded Alex Auld of the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 1.
St. Louis began by skating backwards toward Auld. He shifted sideways to his backhand before moving across the crease. An instant later he lofted the puck over Auld's outstretched pad. The goal helped Tampa Bay to a 3-2 win.
"I've seen him do that once before (against Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury) but that was definitely a great move and it just goes to show the ability he has skating backwards and still knowing where the goalie is," Lightning rookie Steven Stamkos told NHL.com. "To be able to pull off a move like that was pretty impressive."
Perhaps St. Louis will try something like that Saturday night. Of course, since he was a late addition to the Challenge he never had a chance to make his own video detailing some of the moves he may attempt.
With that in mind, we'll try to get him to talk a little trash today. I can only hope he obliges because trash talking is what makes the hype for this competition great.
Meanwhile, yesterday we all thought Crosby wasn't going to be attending All-Star Weekend because of his injured knee. Now, he'll be here and rightfully so. He's one of the League's biggest stars and this is yet another chance for the League to showcase him.
There will be those fans are who sorely disappointed he's not playing, but you all have to understand that this guy is definitely injured and playing in this game would probably risk it further.
However, I should say that I'm of the school of thought that unless a player can't walk he should be playing in the All-Star Game. It's an honor that will only be bestowed on you so many times in your life.
That being said, these players know their bodies best and if they can't give it a full go then they are not going to risk further injury by playing Sunday night. It's not as if Crosby and Nicklas Lidstrom haven't been good soldiers for the League's marketing and PR departments.
They have been two of the best.
-- Dan Rosen
Jamboree is a must-see
Jan. 22, 9:31 PM
But, word to the wise, if you plan to arrive in Montreal on Friday or possess a ticket to the YoungStars Game on Saturday or the All-Star contest on Sunday, do yourself a favor and check out the Jamboree. The cost is $10, but it's worth the price of admission. I have already written a few stories on the event, so check them out if you would like more information.
When you first enter the Jamboree, most of the 18 trophies from the Hockey Hall of Fame are seen throughout. Several vintage all star jerseys are also placed within those cases that surround a supped-up television set. Behind the stage is the NHL Retail Store with everything you need from yearbooks, to jerseys to knit hats.
The next section of the Jamboree is where fans get to test their skills in several interactive elements. The lines aren't long at all and the events are a lot of fun to participate in. The final section of the Jamboree is the Xbox 360 interactive gaming zone. I was there checking things out early in the morning and there were several stations unoccupied. Come Saturday and Sunday, that may change.
Also, the ice blocks containing the jerseys of all 30 NHL teams are stunning. You must check them out. You can't miss them as they align the sidewalk just across the street from the Jamboree tent. Each block stands 7 foot and the jersey is encased in ice 12-inches thick -- very impressive.
The Stanley Cup can be viewed at Windsor Station, where the card and memorabilia show is also held. While at Windsor, say hello to artist David Arrigo, whose mural painting of Canadiens' legends past and present is stunning. Arrigo's 12-foot by 5-foot painting will actually be donated to Sainte-Justines Children's Hospital in Montreal.
Tickets to the All-Star Jamboree cost $10 (Canadian) and are allocated through two-hour time blocks to control the ingress of people into the event. The Jamboree will be open Friday (2-10 p.m.), Saturday (10-10 p.m.) and Sunday (10-6 p.m.). A section of the Jamboree will be unavailable on Sunday due to private events so ticket prices will be reduced to $8. A portion of the proceeds from the All-Star Jamboree will go to Hockey Fights Cancer within the Montreal community.
- Mike G. Morreale
YoungStars settle in under microscope
Jan. 22, 7:43 PM
They sat at dais tables built just for them. Plates bearing their names hung on the walls behind them. Some of them had to share a dais, but it didn't matter. The kids were here and they were soaking up everything about NHL All-Star Weekend.
To my surprise, the media contingent was larger than I expected. I anticipated that many journalists would be flying in today or tonight and be here for tomorrow's availability with the NHL All-Stars. However, there was a good crowd on hand and the mood was very light, loose and fun.
That's exactly the way it was supposed to be.
For me, it was great to get to know Blake Wheeler a little bit as I sat with him for a 10-minute interview. Great talker, by the way. It was nice to see Steven Stamkos again as well. The kid has been through a lot this season but he is still as composed as I remember him from his first game back in Prague in early October.
James Neal, Bryan Little, Mason Raymond, Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland all found their way into my notebook as well.
Neal was literally in awe of where he was, which was great to see and quite refreshing. Little said he was hoping to steal five minutes with Vinny Lecavalier to chat up the Tampa Bay captain. Raymond wants to spend some time chatting with Jarome Iginla. Versteeg is just hoping to play in the YoungStars game. A hand injury could keep him out. Bolland, a third-line grinder, looked like he belonged.
All in all it was a good afternoon with the YoungStars. The show continues tomorrow when the big boys show up.
Read the coverage and enjoy your evening. The dot com boys certainly plan to.
- Dan Rosen
King of the Trick-Shot?
Jan. 22, 7:10 PM
Ovechkin won the inaugural Breakaway Challenge in Atlanta last year.
Clearly, Chicago's Patrick Kane, Montreal's Alex Kovalev and Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf all believe they can win the event; otherwise they would not have volunteered to take on Ovie. And, each of those players had some support from the YoungStars gathered at the Fairmount Queen Elizabeth Hotel for Thursday's media availability.
But, the figurative big money Thursday was flowing in the direction of Kovalev and Kane
Dallas' James Neal appears to have handicapped the field through the use of scouting videos on NHL.com.
"I don't know, but the videos on Kovalev, I think he has a huge bag of tricks," Neal said. "It will be exciting, but I think Kovalev. It's hard to pick just one, though, with the talent they have."
And, Neal can't wait to see how it all turns out Saturday night.
"I'm sure we'll be running out to the bench or watching it on TV in the room," Neal said. "We'll be watching. It'll be something fun to see. I'm really looking forward to it."
Vancouver's Mason Raymond also is leaning to Kovalev, giving him a slight nod over Kane.
"Those are all great candidates, but I'm going to go with Kovalev," Raymond said. "He's got some amazing hands and he's a great goal scorer. Kane, too; but I'll put my money on Kovalev."
Florida's Michael Frolik believes the Bell Centre crowd will play a big part in the outcome, which will be decided by text-message voting. So, he is going with the hometown boy, Kovalev.
"I think maybe Ovechkin will maybe do some good moves like he has done before, but I think it is going to be Kovalev," the Panther rookie said.
Marc Staal, a Canadian-born defenseman with the Eastern Conference-based New York Rangers, went against the grain by picking a Western-Conference-based American who plays for an Original Six rival.
"I think Kane has the moves to win it," Staal said. "I can't wait to see what he does."
Another Eastern Conference player, Atlanta's Bryan Little, also is in Kane's corner.
"It could end up being whoever tries the craziest stuff," he says. "I'd definitely say Kane has a really good handle, so he'll pull it off."
So, there you have it -- some expert opinions from young men that know of which they speak. Still not sure who will win? Well, I guess you'll just have to join us for the show Saturday. I personally can't wait.
-- Shawn P. Roarke
Sid's out, St. Louis is in
Jan. 22, 4:00 PM
Sidney Crosby is too banged up to play in the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday or compete in the Honda/NHL SuperSkills Competition on Saturday night, so word is he is not planning to come to Montreal this weekend and that's probably for the best.
I know I'm in the minority here because fans want to see Sid the Kid even if he's not playing due to injury. Heck, he collected 1,713,021 votes to be a starter for the Eastern Conference, the most in the history of fan voting.
However, I don't think it would be fair to the rest of the all-stars if Crosby showed up just to be here. The media would be focused on him, which would take the spotlight away from some very deserving superstars of our game.
If Crosby is not healthy enough to play in the All-Star Game -- he has been bothered by a left knee injury and finished last night's game with a beat up forearm -- he should take his time to rest and heal because the Penguins need him to be healthy for the stretch drive if they plan on trying to defend their Eastern Conference championship.
He'll be missed here, that's for sure, but the show goes on and there is plenty of star power. The addition of Tampa Bay forward Martin St. Louis only adds to it.
I'm of the opinion that St. Louis, who is from nearby Laval, should have been selected for this game right from the beginning. He's having the best season of any Tampa Bay player with 46 points, including 19 in the last 12 games.
Not to disparage Vinny Lecavalier in any way, but if the Lightning were originally only going to have one rep, and that's probably what they deserve considering their place in the standings in the first half, I thought it should have been St. Louis.
Now that he's here, the argument gets put to bed. Justice is served.
St. Louis is giving Pavel Datsyuk, another All-Star Game casualty, a run for the Lady Byng Trophy this season. He has those 46 points and only four penalty minutes. He also is a plus-11 with four power-play goals and two shorties.
So, we welcome St. Louis to the party and wish Crosby all the best in his few days off. Not having its biggest star at its biggest event is not what the NHL was hoping for, but life goes on and this weekend promises to be just as special without No. 87.
-- Dan Rosen
Great stories to tell
Jan. 22, 3:00 PM
While waiting for the YoungStars to show up here at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth for their media availability, I had to do some research on a few players I plan to speak to for stories.
Blake Wheeler and Steven Stamkos are my targets, so I scoured the internet looking up the current news on each player. I know enough to wing an interview with them, but by reading the hometown papers you get a better feel for what is going on with the player.
I'm hoping Wheeler and Stamkos are open and honest with me because they each have a pretty darn good story to tell.
Wheeler, as you probably already know, has turned into a sensation in Boston after he was the surprise of training camp. The general consensus was he would have to play in Providence of the American Hockey League this season as he acclimates himself to the pro game, but he has instead played in all 47 Bruins' games this season and has 30 points to show for it.
The former University of Minnesota center is now the Bruins' second line left wing, playing mostly with Michael Ryder and David Krejci. Wheeler and Krejci have also been formidable penalty killers in the absence of Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm.
The Bruins top line, when healthy, is unequivocally their best with Marc Savard centering Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic. However, since Kessel has been out with mono and Lucic with a shoulder injury -- that's why he's not going to be here today for the YoungStars media availability -- the second line has been providing some great offensive pop.
Wheeler is playing a big part on it, but there'll be more to come on him later in story form.
As for Stamkos, I am very curious to get his opinion on his recent stints in the press box as a healthy scratch. Some may just assume that since he's been a healthy scratch the No. 1 pick is falling flat on his face.
Totally not the case at all.
Instead, it appears that Rick Tocchet has figured out a plan for the 19-year-old center. Tocchet is making Stamkos a healthy scratch on an occasional basis so he gets more time to train and more time to watch the games. He has to go up to the press box, takes notes, and then go over them the following day with assistant coach Wes Walz in a "classroom setting."
I think it's brilliant, and it could turn into a technique a lot of teams use with young players, especially ones with as much promise as Stamkos.
-- Dan Rosen
This is 'Hockey Town'
Jan. 22, 12:40 PM
With all due respect to the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, Montreal is hockey town. It has taken less than 24 hours in this fabled Old-World city to reach this undeniable conclusion.
Hockey is everywhere here; in the papers, on TV, dominating the radio airwaves. It is part of almost every snippet of conversation you here as you move around this bustling city. Everyone knows the game and everyone has an opinion about it.
Heck, there were three different post-game programs breaking down the Canadiens loss to New Jersey on Wednesday night. I'm guessing the French-language versions were just as incensed with the loss as the English-language ones I encountered after dinner and a few beverages with the NHL.com crew.
Even landing, you sensed that Montreal is different from most other places. As our Embraer jet broke through the low-hanging cloud cover, the snow-covered ground outside the aircraft was littered with outdoor rinks; one every mile or so.
And, at 4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, all but one was filled with tiny figures swirling across the gray surface.
The car radio in our courtesy van from the airport to the downtown hotel was tuned to one of the city's all-sports stations. It should be called an all-hockey station because nothing else was discussed during the 45-minute ride.
I have been to Montreal several times to cover games at the Old Forum and I have treasured memories of each visit I have made to this city. But, it has been a while since I have been here and I have clearly forgotten just how deep and fast the passion for the game -- and specifically the Canadiens -- runs in these parts.
It is a passion that is contagious. And, when combined with the cold and snow that have enveloped Montreal this month, it demands that you be in a hockey frame of mind, as well. For a hockey-lifer like me, that is exhilarating.
There is no need to explain to acquaintances why you are in their town or what you do. They know as you as you say "I'm here for the All-Star Game." They smile and nod -- and some even ask for tickets, which are impossible to come across.
I'm energized by Montreal and its vibe and I expect it to help carry me -- and the rest of the .com boys -- through what will be a long and hectic next four days. I know the hockey energy will surface in my work -- there is no way it can't.
I hope you all come along for the rise with us and vicariously enjoy the trip.
-- Shawn P. Roarke
Touching down in Montreal
Jan. 22, 10:30 AM
We arrived Wednesday evening, five of us together on the flight from Newark and another member of the crew who came in from LaGuardia. Two more are coming today, bringing our man power to eight capable soldiers.
We had to battle some rush hour traffic on our way downtown to our hotel, which is just a stones throw from the Bell Centre. On the way, we got to listen to Pierre McGuire have a 30-minute spot on The Team 990 radio.
Hockey talk all the time on the airwaves. We don't always get that in New York, so it's quite refreshing.
We settled in for a nice dinner at a local establishment, where we got to watch the Habs vs. New Jersey. Good win by the Devils. Can you believe that Scott Clemmensen is 19-9-1 with .922 save percentage? For cryin' out loud, those are numbers worthy of being in Montreal this weekend. Look out, though, because Marty Brodeur is starting to skate.
Today most of the players who will be playing in the NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck will be at the hotel to meet the media. Yes, we'll be there, delivering you plenty of stories. I'm told Mike Babcock and Guy Carbonneau will be in attendance as well.
The Lays NHL All-Star Jamboree opens at 2 ET today and I'm excited to go check it out. Mike Morreale and I are planning a visit for the grand opening and I can't wait to see what my buddy, Nick Gennarelli, the NHL's Manager of Events and Entertainment, has cooked up.
There is some news today as I'm sure you've already read. Joe Thornton and Alex Kovalev have been named captains for the West and the East, respectively. There were plenty of candidates to choose from and those are some solid picks.
I was a little surprised that Scott Niedermayer didn't get the honor from the West, but you can't really argue with Thornton. And, judging by his quote - "I'm shocked and excited" - you can tell that truly really appreciates and respects the honor.
Kovalev should get an awesome greeting from the Montreal faithful when he's introduced.
Time to do some research. Check back later...
-- Dan Rosen
Jan. 20, 02:25 PM
Maybe he's scared. Perhaps he's a little intimidated. Or, could it be that he already stoked the flame enough and he doesn't want to get burned by it come Saturday night?
Ryan Getzlaf is backing off his words. That's right, hockey fans, Getzlaf is taking back what he said about Alex Ovechkin's spin-o-rama move that won him the Breakaway Challenge last year in Atlanta.
Getzlaf, who called Ovechkin's move "overrated" in a video created to build hype for the upcoming Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge, told me Tuesday morning that he was just kidding around.
"No, it was cool," he said. "I was just having some fun with it."
OK, Ryan. We'll buy what you're selling -- for now…
In all seriousness, there's no way that Getzlaf is scared or intimidated by Ovechkin, but he does plan on beating him Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
With what move remains to be seen.
"I'm still thinking," Getzlaf said. "There is nothing to reveal yet."
Getzlaf tried to tell me that he doesn't really practice his moves, but I don't know how much I believe him. However, I must note that I was looking for him on the ice after the Ducks morning skate at Madison Square Garden, but he was already in the dressing room.
Seems like post-practice would be as good a time as any to work on your moves, especially with the event only five nights away, but he wasn't doing it so maybe he was telling the truth. Or, maybe he was just focusing on Tuesday night's game against the Rangers.
"I'll see what some of the other guys do and try to do something different," Getzlaf said of his opponents, including Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Alex Kovalev and Sid the Kid. "That's the big thing, to not be the same as the other guys. We all screw around with the puck all the time. We're just going to do it in front of a camera now."
Expect Getzlaf to try something great, but nothing too extravagant, he said.
"You have to do something that you can do," he said. "You can try anything you want, but if it's not something you can do it's not going to look that good out there."
-- Dan Rosen
Faster than a speeding bullet
Jan. 16, 05:58 PM
Mike Modano doesn't plan on lacing 'em up to compete in the Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater Competition. As one of two 38-year-old veterans in the game (Nicklas Lidstrom being the other), Modano would probably like to leave the speed skating to some of the young pups.
That being said, the former speed burner, who in his prime might have been the fastest player in the League, if not definitely one of them, has an idea of what it would take to win the competition.
"It's a timing thing," Modano said. "Just really getting a constant flow to your stride is a big part of that speed."
Asked who he thinks were the fastest skaters in today's NHL, Modano said there are two sets of criteria. All-out, around-the-rink speed, or blue-line-to-blue-line speed.
He said he always thought Paul Kariya was one of the fastest blue line to blue line skaters in the League. When healthy, he probably still is, but now Modano would nominate Alex Ovechkin for that honor.
For around-the-rink speed, Sergei Fedorov has always been one of his favorites along with Scott Niedermayer. Both can still burn, but Modano said he now likes Brian Campbell's speed and believes his teammate, Stephane Robidas, is "a very underrated skater."
"The list is probably pretty long," Modano added.
Shawn Horcoff had the fastest heat time at last year's game, but Brian Campbell edged both him and Duncan Keith with the best average time. Campbell could defend his title this year, perhaps against Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter and Pavel Datsyuk?
We'll find out soon enough, but you can bet that Modano will be watching, and critiquing.
-- Dan Rosen
Jan. 16, 12:29 PM
The Kings are going to be well-represented during the NHL All-Star Weekend in Montreal, despite just having one player in the game itself.
Los Angeles right wing Dustin Brown, the Kings lone All-Star representative, will be joined in Montreal by goalie Erik Ersberg and rookie defenseman Drew Doughty who are suiting up for the NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck.
Brown, who has played in All-Star games in other leagues, is playing in his first in the NHL.
"I played in some All-Star games in the OHL and the AHL level," Brown said. "But never at this level. It's obviously something special and a great honor."
Brown feels that this gives him a unique opportunity to get to know players off the ice, which is an opportunity he wouldn't normally get.
"You look at some of the players in the lineup and they are all skilled," Brown said. "There are some really special players. I think the most fun part about being in an All-Star Game is that you get to know star players as a person. It's your one chance to get to meet players that will probably never play with."
Brown, who leads the Western Conference with 159 hits, is going to have to alter his game in Montreal due to the All-Star Game's finesse reputation.
"I'm still trying to figure that one out," Brown said. "I know I'm not going to hit like I do during a regular-season game. My normal game probably doesn't suit the NHL All-Star Game's style or intensity, but I'll think of something."
Doughty, who leads the League's rookies with an average ice time of 23:42, is looking forward to the opportunity to take part in the weekend's events, particularly since they are in historic Montreal.
"I'm really excited and I'm looking forward to getting a chance to play in the game," Doughty said. "Now that I have been invited it's a pleasure and I can't wait to get out there.
"I think it's going to be awesome. Obviously, Montreal is a great place for the All-Star Game this year. It's a great hockey town and there are a lot of great hockey fans there so I'm sure the building will be really loud and it will be fun for the players as well."
While Doughty and Ersberg are teammates during the regular season, they are going to oppose each other during the YoungStars Game.
Ersberg, who is recovering from a groin injury that saw him miss eight games, hasn't given the festivities much thought because, like most NHL players, his focus is on his next game.
"I haven't thought about that (the YoungStars Game) at all," Ersberg said. "I've been concentrating on getting back from my injury, so I haven't really thought about that. I have played OK so far. I think I can do better and I think that our team can do better. I think we can be a little higher in the standings and hopefully we can achieve that in the second part of the season."
-- Adam Schwartz
Luongo hoping he's healthy for All-Star Game
Jan. 16, 9:49 AM
While Luongo is viewed as one of the best goalies on the planet, he has only won one playoff round in 2007 when the Canucks defeated the Dallas Stars in a memorable seven-game series. He has never won a Vezina Trophy as the League's top goalie, but those in the know still know how good he is and are aware of just how valuable he is.
Luongo has an 11-5-2 record this season, and to show just how important he is to Vancouver's success, the club is 11-13-3 without him.
Thankfully for Vancouver, which has lost five of its last six games, Luongo is returning Thursday when the Canucks face the Coyotes.
"The wait has been really tough," Luongo said. "It's the first time I've had an injury like this and to be out this long has been tough on me. Now I'm starting to get back, but at the same time you have to hold back a little bit because you don't want to get ahead of yourself and possibly hurt yourself again. I've been getting closer and I'm looking forward to playing."
Luongo feels healthy and has begun practicing, but is still worried about getting back into game shape.
"As far as the injury is concerned I feel ready," Luongo said. "It's just a matter of getting the timing back a little bit and feeling good about my game and getting back to where I was before I got hurt."
After being selected as a reserve for the Western Conference All-Stars, Luongo felt honored, and it is particularly special since the game is in his hometown of Montreal.
"The All-Star Game is in my hometown so that makes it nice," Luongo said. "At the same time I have to make sure that I'm 100 percent healthy. I have to be playing well and I don't want any effects of rust or groin issues."
Luongo feels that whenever a player gets the chance to play where he grew up it is a unique experience, particularly when it is in a hockey hotbed such as Montreal.
"It's very special to be selected to the All-Star team particularly since it's in my hometown," Luongo said. "Every time you get a chance to play in your hometown you know that all of your friends and family will be there watching, which makes it so much more special. In addition to that there is so much history behind the Montreal Canadiens and that also makes it really nice."
Despite the fact that Luongo grew up in Montreal, he was not a Canadiens fan growing up. He preferred the high-flying Oilers of the 1980s.
"I was an Oilers fan growing up," Luongo said. "Grant Fuhr was my idol and they had all of those great guys like Gretzky, Coffey and Kurri. That didn't make it too hard to be an Oilers fan back then."
-- Adam Schwartz
Orr can't wait for All-Star Weekend
Jan. 15, 12:41 PM
With that unique set of experiences to draw from, Orr believes that next week's festivities will be like nothing hockey has ever seen.
"Montreal has always done things right," Orr said. "It's going to be an unbelievable event. Everything they're doing now leading up to it with the Original Six and all the rest has been outstanding."
How good has Montreal been at preparing for the All-Star Game, as well as all of the other events on their Centennial calendar? Good enough that the city of Boston is willing to put aside an intense and not always good-natured rivalry with the city of Montreal in an attempt to learn a thing or two, says Orr.
"I have friends with the Boston Red Sox and they are a wonderful orginazation and they called me to ask if I could set up a meeting with the people in Montreal who are doing their festivities because they have a big year coming up and they want to go to Montreal and talk to the people that are working the big date.
"I think that says a lot about what people think of the Canadiens."
Just talking about the All-Star Game put Orr in a bit of a nostalgic mood. He was never much of a force at these midseason classics -- scoring just three points in his seven appearances -- but he always thoroughly enjoyed himself when he was there.
"It's just sitting around in the dressing room and looking around at who was with you," says Orr. "That was unbelievable. It's a fun event to see all the players that you bump into all the time, now you are playing with them. It was pretty special."
Just as it will be a special time for the 40-odd current All-Stars that will begin converging on Montreal next Thursday for the festivities surrounding Sunday's All-Star game.
-- Shawn P. Roarke and Adam Kimelman
How low can he go?
Jan. 13, 4:11 PM
The Philadelphia Flyers' young sniper and first-time all-star told me Tuesday morning that he doesn't expect much out of himself in the Honda/NHL SuperSkills Competition next Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
In fact, when I asked him what event he should be in, Carter, who led the NHL with 29 goals heading into Tuesday night's action, was not only non-committal, he was self-deprecating.
On the Cisco NHL Hardest Shot competition: "I don't take slap shots, so I'd probably embarrass myself if I got put out there," Carter said.
Perhaps, he admitted, the McDonald's NHL Accuracy Shooting competition would suit him, "but I'd probably miss every one."
Teammate Scott Hartnell, unaware that the competitors for the Scotiabank NHL Fan Fav Breakaway Challenge had already been selected, believes Carter could do well in that competition.
"He gets about two to three breakaways a game," Hartnell said.
But he won't be a part of that one. And, we've already ruled out the Hardest Shot and Accuracy Shooting. Since Carter isn't eligible for the NHL YoungStars Game presented by Upper Deck, that leaves only one event for him to try to win.
The Bridgestone NHL Fastest Skater, which may be just right for him.
"His speed is underrated," Hartnell said. "Once he gets going with those long legs, he really gets going."
Even Carter admitted that much, but he doesn't expect to have any say in what event he does.
"I'm probably the last one to get picked," he said. "I have no rank."
Nor does he have any expectations.
"I'm setting the bar low," he added, "so I might do alright."
In reality, Carter doesn't care what he does Saturday night. His excitement trumps any hesitation or self doubt he may have.
This is Montreal for NHL All-Star Weekend and he's one of the stars of the show.
That's pretty darn cool.
"I have been to junior hockey all-star games and that's not going to compare to this," Carter said. "I'm just going to sit back and take it all in. I think that's the best way to go about it. It's pretty exciting to see where I have gotten in a few years."
-- Dan Rosen
Jan. 12, 2:23 PM
Take the Bruins' head coach Claude Julien, and blindfold him. Take his team, the Boston Bruins, and replace them all, to a man, with the 2009 Eastern Conference All-Star team.
It might actually be a full period of hockey before anyone noticed a change in play.
He and the rest of the Boston Bruins have been just about that good this season. And, on Saturday, he was recognized as coach of those Eastern All-Stars, the first of what is sure to be an honor-filled season for both he and his club.
Now, at the beginning of the season, it would not have been difficult to imagine two of these teams – Detroit and San Jose – battling for the Presidents' Trophy throughout the season, with Boston and Washington not far behind.
But not many would have projected the precise ordering. And very few would have thought that Detroit, with the addition of Marian Hossa, would not only be outside of first, but third in the League, at the halfway point of the season.
The truth is that the number of elite clubs – and coaches – in the League is trending upward. Julien will be joined by either the talented Mr. Boudreau, who has turned the Washington Capitals almost completely around in a little more than one calendar year, or Montreal's Guy Carbonneau, the coach of the hometown team that sits withing hailing distance of JUlien's boys in the Northeast Conference.
Montreal and Washington play Saturday night. If Montreal gets a regulation win, Carbonneau is in. Any other result and Boudreau is the Eastern CoNference assistant coach.
In the West, old friends meet again, but in reversed roles. Todd McLellan will act as head coach of Team West, with Mike Babcock acting as his assistant.
Now, each coach would credit hard work and discipline for their success, the truth is, each of these coaches has put something together with his particular team.
Julien has answered every challenge this season, having posted a 6-0-2 record against a combined Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Detroit, Montreal and Chicago -- though the gritty Buffalo Sabres have taken six of seven points off the B's.
Whomever ends up assisting Julien, that duyo will face a tough challenge behind the Western bench.
This summer, GM Doug Wilson dubbed Todd McLellan the man to turn the Sharks' tide; a decision that had something to do with the young coach's impressive winning resume. A head coach his whole life, save his three years in Detroit, McLellan has never missed a postseason. He won two league championships during that stretch: one as an assistant, one as head coach.
He adds a special degree to the Sharks. They, in turn, have learned to complement his coaching style and philosophy. And with McLellan behind the bench, the Sharks have not lost in regulation at home during the 2008-09 season, a span of 21 straight games.
He won't receive his report card until the spring, but it already appears that a "new" Sharks team has emerged under his watch. The first change is that the next time he meets his old boss, it is he will have the bigger title.
Like McLellan, Detroit's Mike Babcock cut his coaching teeth in the Canadian junior and university leagues, on to minor pro leagues early in his career, then to the AHL, then to the Anaheim Ducks.
He and his Ducks were defeated by Martin Brodeur in the Stanley Cup Final, the same year they defeated the Detroit Red Wings in four games. The next year he missed the playoffs.
Each of these All-Star coaches has a highly impressive resume.
Each leads a team that has a certain amount of success to celebrate. The amount of All-Stars off the rosters of these coaches' club teams is a direct result of the teams' success.
Boston is showing just how big a difference a winning atmosphere can make in an individual's play.
All-Stars Marc Savard, Tim Thomas and Zdeno Chara are each having an exceptional season, but beyond the Bruins No. 1 center, defenseman, and goaltender, the sheer number of players on Boston's roster enjoying career seasons is staggering.
Young Czech forward David Kreji broke his career high for points in November. Former first-round pick Phil Kessel broke his career high for goals not long after, and budding power-forward Milan Lucic has drawn power-forward comparisons to just about everyone.
The defense, the same; Matt Hunwick and Dennis Wideman are each enjoying success at an unprecedented rate. And the goaltenders? Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez each has played as well this season as any of the League's elite.
In the end, what each of these coaches brings to the table is the willingness to believe in a winning atmosphere, from men who have experience with winning atmospheres. Their winning ways helps to build the confidence of its members, which, in turn, leads to more team goals being reached.