NHL fans have spoken loud and clear that the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game will have an Ontario flavor. Nearly 24 million votes were cast during the NHL All-Star Fan Balloting, presented by Sirius XM.
The League announced the results of its voting campaign Thursday and five of the first six players named to the All-Star Game hail from Ontario-based teams, including four players from the host Ottawa Senators. The game will be played at Ottawa's Scotiabank Place Jan. 29.
Goalie Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins was the only star able to crash the First Six parade of Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson led the voting with 939,951 votes, garnering 42,536 more votes than veteran teammate Daniel Alfredsson, the Ottawa captain. Center Jason Spezza is also among the First Six, joined by surprise addition Milan Michalek, who used a stunning last-day push to oust Toronto's Phil Kessel
by 42,144 votes for the final forward spot. Kessel had been among the top-three in forward voting throughout the balloting process.
With Kessel being nipped at the wire, Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf
is the only Maple Leafs representative among the First Six. The defenseman earned 614,933 votes to join Karlsson on the blue line.
Thomas, who won the Vezina Trophy and the Conn Smythe Trophy last season as his Bruins claimed the Stanley Cup, topped Toronto's James Reimer
by more than 128,000 votes.
The roughly 24 million votes cast is a 66-percent increase from last year's total and is the third-highest total since the All-star ballot went all-digital in 2007.
The remaining players will be named by the NHL's Hockey Operations staff later this month.
Despite the heavy Ontario feel of the First Six selections for the All-Star roster, there is quite a bit of talent in play.
Karlsson, in his third season, leads all defensemen in points, putting up 37 in 40 games, six more than second-place Brian Campbell. Phaneuf, meanwhile, has an impressive 26 points and is playing almost 26 minutes a game for the Maple Leafs.
Up front, Michalek has 19 goals despite missing several games with injury. Spezza, meanwhile, has 40 points, which is good for No. 11 on the NHL's scoring chart. Alfredsson has just 28 points this season, but has been a fixture in the Ottawa lineup for almost two decades. For his career, Spezza has 1,051 points in 1,090 games.
The selection of Thomas is no doubt a reflection of all he accomplished last season in one of the best campaigns ever had by a NHL goalie, but Thomas has been just as good this year. He is 17-6 in 24 starts, posting a 1.90 goals-against average and .a 940 save percentage.