-- Nicklas Lidstrom
and Eric Staal
have made their roster picks for Sunday's NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover (4 p.m. ET, Versus, TSN, RDS).
So how did they do? Where is each one strongest? Weakest? Does either team have an edge? Here's a look at how the two captains did and what they focused on.
Staal started strong in the drafting process by taking hometown hero (and Carolina teammate) Cam Ward
in the first round. It was a good start that was followed by the selection of Henrik Lundqvist
in the sixth round and Montreal's resurgent Carey Price
in Round 10. Team Lidstrom waited a little longer, taking Tim Thomas
of Boston in the fifth round before going back-to-back in Rounds 9 and 10 with Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury
and Jonas Hiller
-- Team Lidstrom. Even though Team Lidstrom waited longer to address goaltending, it has the clear advantage. First of all, the object of goaltending is to win and Lidstrom picked three of the five goalies atop the wins column this season. In fact, Lidstrom's trio has combined for 72 wins. More impressively, Lidstrom selections are three of the top six in goals-against average, including Thomas, who leads in GAA and save percentage. Also, Hiller is the hottest goalie in the League right now and has faced a League-high 1,462 shots -- not a bad thing in a game that sees goalies face a lot of pucks.
Team Lidstrom has a bit of everything on the blue line. First of all, it has Lidstrom himself, the best all-round defenseman of his generation. There's also a lot of offense in Chicago's Duncan Keith
(the first defenseman taken), Nashville's Shea Weber
, Atlanta's Dustin Byfuglien
, Keith Yandle
of the Phoenix Coyotes
and Minnesota's Brent Burns
. Team Staal went in a bit of a different direction. Yes, there is a good deal of offense on the blue line when you consider the presence of fleet-footed Dan Boyle
of San Jose, Pittsburgh's Kris Letang
, Washington's Mike Green
and Ottawa's Erik Karlsson
, the final defenseman taken. But Staal's team also has some defensive grit in Boston's Zdeno Chara
and Marc Staal
of the New York Rangers
, perhaps the two most physical defenders in the game.
-- Team Lidstrom. While the Staal boys do have some defensive grit, Nicklas Lidstrom
knows defenseman better than anybody, so he's got to get the nod here. The numbers are sobering. Team Lidstrom owns the top three scoring defensemen in the game in Yandle (44 points), Lidstrom (42) and Byfuglien (41). All told, Team Lidstrom outscores Team Staal, 214 to 168 and -- and, as we all know, this game is all about offense.
Team Staal started out loaded up the middle. Eric Staal
, the captain, has 25 goals and 52 points. Alternate captain Ryan Kesler
of the Vancouver Canucks
, meanwhile is having a career year with 27 goals and 47 points. Staal added Carolina rookie sensation Jeff Skinner
to the mix in what might have been the most popular move for the fans in attendance, and also added Colorado's Paul Stastny
. Team Lidstrom had to build from scratch at the pivot, but that handicap did not hurt the team in the end. In fact, Lidstrom took six centers -- Vancouver's Henrik Sedin
, Chicago's Jonathan Toews
, Brad Richards
of Dallas, Anze Kopitar
of Los Angeles, Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos
and Colorado's Matt Duchene
-- Team Lidstrom. Lidstrom's six centers are a scary collection of pivots that is more about quality than quantity. Stamkos is the game's top-scoring center (67 points) and Henrik Sedin
is only 6 points behind while Richards has 57 points. All three of those centers are outscoring Staal, Team Staal's top-scoring center.
Team Lidstrom was loaded on the right, with alternates Patrick Kane
and Martin St. Louis
both playing that side. But Lidstrom fortified that position even more by taking Philadelphia's Danny Briere
, Minnesota's Marty Havlat and, with the final pick of the draft, Toronto's Phil Kessel
. Team Staal answered by taking Columbus Rick Nash
, Philadelphia's Claude Giroux
, Anaheim's Corey Perry
and David Backes
of St. Louis.
-- Team Lidstrom. Staal's right wings are certainly the more physical and more defensive of the bunch, especially with the gritty Backes and Giroux, as well as Perry. But, Lidstrom's team again has the edge in offensive output, which figures to be the name of the game on Sunday. Plus, Lidstrom has the best right wing in Mr. St. Louis, who will once again be receiving passes from Stamkos, his regular center.
This could be Team Lidstrom's Achilles heel. Stacked at so many other positions, Lidstrom picked just one natural left wing in Loui Eriksson
of the Dallas Stars
. Lidstrom has already said he will move Richards, a natural center, to the left side as well. Team Staal, meanwhile, has a full compliment of left wings with Washington's Alex Ovechkin
, Vancouver's Daniel Sedin
, Chicago's Patrick Sharp
and New Jersey's Patrik Elias
-- Team Staal. Even if Lidstrom had a full complement of left wings, he would lose this battle. Team Staal has the two best in the game right now in Ovechkin and Daniel Sedin
. Sharp, in the midst of a brilliant year, is no slouch either. Elias has won two Stanley Cups and is a big-game player through and through. A dominating win for Team Staal.
Edmonton's Taylor Hall
won the coin toss and pledged his six-man delegation of rookies to Team Lidstrom. That means Hall, center Derek Stepan
of the New York Rangers
and Florida right wing Evgeny Dadonov
are the forwards who will take part in Saturday's skills competition. They will be joined by defensemen Cam Fowler
of Anaheim, Kevin Shattenkirk
of Colorado and Oliver Ekman-Larsson
of Phoenix. Team Staal answers with forwards Logan Couture
of San Jose, Tyler Seguin
of Boston, Michael Grabner
of the New York Islanders
and Tyler Ennis
of Buffalo, as well as Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban
and Carolina's Jamie McBain
-- Team Staal. The Staals have the most dynamic forward in San Jose's Couture and the most dynamic rookie defenseman in Montreal's Subban. In a skills competition, that is a huge advantage and gives the Staals a slight edge over Lidstrom in the rookie department.
This is often the tiebreaker whenever you examine the strengths and weaknesses of teams as loaded as these. Each has a number of intangibles working in its favor. Lidstrom is perhaps the most revered player in the League, and every player on his roster will want to win for the classy captain. Lidstrom also has Thomas as one of its goalies, and his battling attitude will rub off on everybody in the dressing room. The Staals answer with a huge hometown flavor, possessing all three Carolina Hurricane players. Plus, the Staal brothers -- Eric and Marc-- are on the same team and will have an incredible bond.
-- Team Staal. There's no bigger advantage than having the crowd on your side -- and, make no mistake, Team Staal will be the fan favorite on Sunday and will have no trouble feeding off that energy. The question then becomes how Team Lidstrom will respond to wearing the black hats -- or helmets, if you will -- in this exhibition.