After five weeks of voting by the fans, the 2012 NHL All-Star Game that will be played in Ottawa continues to be dominated by the province of Ontario.
Seven of the eight leaders play for either the Toronto Maple Leafs or Ottawa Senators, with Toronto's Phil Kessel
leading the way with 529,659 votes. Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek rank second, fourth, sixth and eighth, respectively in votes while Toronto's Dion Phaneuf
and Joffrey Lupul
are third and seventh, respectively.
Only Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, who has the fifth-most votes, is preventing the top-eight spots from being an all-Ontario affair.
With 360,061 votes, Toronto's James Reimer
is 10th overall and first among goaltenders. Only Boston's Tim Thomas is within striking distance with 342,792 votes. Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury, who was about 18,000 votes behind Reimer last week, is now about 40,000 votes behind the leader.
Kessel would have to do something drastic to lose his stranglehold on the top forward spot. Last week, he held a 60,000-vote lead on the second-place Crosby. This week, he has an 84,000-vote lead on the second-place Alfredsson.
On defense, Karlsson holds a 33,000-vote edge on Phaneuf, increasing a lead that was at about 26,000 votes last week. Nicklas Lidstrom sits at No. 4 with 349,770 votes, but he's cut into the lead of the third-place Kris Letang, who has been out with a concussion yet still has about 16,000 more votes than Lidstrom.
While fans of the Leafs and Senators are exercising their right to vote more than any other fan base, there are players who aren't on the ballot who are garnering support.
Among write-ins, Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard is the leader with 144,481 votes. Why wouldn't he be worthy of a vote? He leads the League in wins with 20, which is four more than his closest competitors, is third in goals-against average, among goaltenders with at least 20 starts, at 1.91 and fifth in save percentage at .928.
Tyler Seguin's sensational second season has him leading all forwards in write-in votes with 100,770. In 31 games, the 19-year-old has 14 goals and 29 points and his plus-22 ranks second in the NHL.
Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi was left off the ballot, but fans are throwing their weight behind him. Girardi's 65,311 votes are the most among write-in blueliners. The 27-year-old leads in the NHL in ice time at 27:35 per game and has been an anchor while the Rangers have been missing key defensemen because of injury all season.
One of the surprise stories of this season has been the Minnesota Wild, who have held the overall lead in the standings at times. At 20-9-5 with 45 points, they rank No. 3 in the League right now. However, all that success hasn't translated into fan votes.
Center Mikko Koivu, who leads the Wild with 20 assists and 28 points, has 39,657 votes, the most on the team but No. 100 in the voting total. Dany Heatley is No. 103 with 36,842 votes.
The 41-year-old Teemu Selanne, who says this will be his last season, will need some more help if he wants to play in the All-Star Game as a result of fan balloting. He ranks No. 72 with 70,028 and No. 37 among forwards despite leading the Ducks with 35 points in 33 games.
Defenseman David Runblad, who went the other way in the deal, checks in at No. 306 in votes with 1,334.Fans can vote at vote.nhl.com. Fans will determine the first 6 players chosen to participate in the 2012 Tim Horton's NHL All-Star Game (3 Forwards, 2 Defensemen, 1 Goalie). The virtual poll booth closes on Jan. 4.