The 2009 All-Star Game will be a celebration of the great history of the Montreal Canadiens
during their centennial season.
While fans think fondly of the club's great history, there also will be a lot to cheer for in the present, as the Eastern Conference starting lineup for the 2009 All-Star Game will be tinged in bleu, blanc et rouge.
Four Canadiens were voted to start the game -- forward Alexei Kovalev
, defensemen Andrei Markov
and Mike Komisarek
, and goaltender Carey Price
Joining the Montreal faction will be a pair of players from the Pittsburgh Penguins
, the defending Eastern Conference champs.
and Evgeni Malkin
, part-time linemates and full-time contenders for the League scoring title, were the two leading vote-getters. Crosby, who obliterated Jaromir Jagr
's record by recording 1,713,021 votes in the online campaign, was voted to start his third straight All-Star Game. He would have started last year's game in Atlanta had he not missed the game with a sprained ankle.
Malkin, who recorded more than 1.5 million votes to also pass Jagr's record of 1,020,736 set in 2000, is a first-time starter who will play in his second All-Star Game.
Nine other players surpassed Jagr's record, including all six Eastern Conference starters -- all Canadiens or Penguins. Kovalev received 1,343,301 votes to finish ahead of teammates Saku Koivu
(1,320,604) and Alex Tanguay
(1,296,701) for the final forward spot. Markov (1,443,091) and Komisarek (1,373,628) surpassed Jagr's total, as did the Penguins' pair of Sergei Gonchar
(1,354,079) and Ryan Whitney
(1,311,374). Price (1,515,885) finished just behind Malkin for third among all vote-getters, with Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
This will be Kovalev's third All-Star appearance, but first since 2003. He leads the team with 28 points, but he's also seen as a smart, veteran leader on a team stocked with maturing young players. Markov, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn
and Tomas Plekanec
credit a great deal of their development to Kovalev's leadership. And when Koivu was out with an injury earlier this season, his captain's "C" was stitched onto Kovalev's sweater.
While Kovalev will be a familiar face to many fans, there will be a number of first-time starters, including all three forwards from the Western Conference.
cornerstones Patrick Kane
and Jonathan Toews
finished 1-2 among all players in the West. Kane, last season's Calder Trophy winner, received 917,551 votes. Toews, named Blackhawks captain this season, received more than 809,599.
Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf
, who played in last season's game in Atlanta, topped the Sharks' Joe Thornton
, the Red Wings' Marian Hossa
and the Flames' Jarome Iginla
to complete the West's starting trio.
Rounding out the Blackhawks' All-Star contingent is defenseman Brian Campbell
, who will start for the second time in three years. Campbell, who joined the Blackhawks this summer, is on pace for his second straight 60-point season.
Joining Campbell on the Western Conference blue line will be Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer
, who topped teammate Chris Pronger
by just 11,000 votes to earn the start.
Niedermayer, who contemplated retirement after Anaheim won the 2007 Stanley Cup, returned last season in time to be chosen for the All-Star Game, and now he'll be in Montreal for his sixth midseason classic.
In goal for the West will be Jean-Sebastien Giguere
. The Ducks goalie will start his first All-Star Game a month after the passing of his father following a long illness. While losing his father certainly has weighed on him, it's done little to affect his play. Giguere won 11 of his first 25 games and posted a pair of shutouts, along with a 2.92 goals-against average.
Giguere received 617,241 votes to finish well ahead of the Canucks' Roberto Luongo
While Giguere, a Montreal native, will have fan support, so will the four Canadiens voted into this year's game.
Markov, who started last year's game in Atlanta, continues to be ranked among the League's best offensive defensemen. His 27 points is tied for fifth among the League's blueliners.
Komisarek's selection to start his first All-Star Game is a testament to fans seeing beyond the offensive numbers. Despite missing a month with a shoulder injury, Komisarek ranks third on the Canadiens with 72 blocked shots and fifth with 71 hits. He's also chipped in 2 points and is a plus-2 in his first 21 games.
Gonchar, who hasn't played this season after a preseason shoulder injury and Whitney, who made his season debut after summer foot surgery just before Christmas, would not have been eligible to play in the game if they had been voted in.
Price beat out Fleury by just over 29,000 votes to start his first All-Star Game. After backstopping the Canadiens to the best record in the Eastern Conference and the second round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he's continued his strong play by winning 16 of his first 25 games this season, and ranking in top 10 with a 2.30 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
The 2009 All-Star Game will be played Jan. 25 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Here is a closer look at the starters for the game.
-- Crosby is used to setting records, so becoming the single-season leader in All-Star votes shouldn't be much of a surprise. The Pittsburgh Penguins
center was a runaway winner to start his second All-Star Game, earning more than 1.7 million votes to cruise past Jaromir Jagr
's previous record of 1,020,736 set in 2000.
Crosby, who missed last year's All-Star Game in Atlanta with an ankle injury, has been healthy all season and looking like the player who captured the 2007 Hart and Art Ross
trophies. He's third in League in scoring, behind only teammate Evgeni Malkin
and Washington's Alex Ovechkin
. With 50 points in 38 games, Crosby is on pace for 112 points. Earlier this season, Crosby notched his 100th NHL goal, 200th assist and 300th point in the same game, Oct. 18 against Toronto, his 219th NHL game.
-- Malkin stepped into the spotlight last season when teammate Sidney Crosby
went down with an ankle injury and turned into a superstar. This season, Crosby has returned healthy, but it's still Malkin leading the charge in Pittsburgh. Malkin, who received more than 1.5 million votes -- passing Jaromir Jagr
's former record of 1,020,736 set in 2000 -- will play in his second straight All-Star Game.
The 22-year-old had a month-long, 13-game scoring streak that propelled him to the top of the scoring race. After finishing second last season to Alex Ovechkin
, Malkin's 60 points in 38 games has him on pace for 134 points, which would be the most points in a season since the 1995-96 season, when Mario Lemieux
had 161 points to lead the League and Jaromir Jagr
was second with 149.
-- It hasn't been the easiest of seasons for Alexei Kovalev
, but the Montreal Canadiens
veteran still has some of the most sublime skills in the League, and more than 1.3 million fans voted him into his third NHL All-Star Game, where he'll be able to delight the home fans in Montreal.
The 35-year-old forward has 9 goals and 28 points in 37 games, but he's also seen as a smart, veteran leader on a team stocked with maturing young players. Players like Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn
, Tomas Plekanec
and Andre Markov credit a great deal of their development to Kovalev's leadership. And when team captain Saku Koivu
was out with an injury earlier this season, the "C" was stitched onto Kovalev's sweater.
-- Markov has been putting up All-Star numbers for quite a while, and for the second straight season NHL fans have noticed as the Canadiens defenseman has been voted to start the game in front of his home fans at the Bell Centre.
Markov finished sixth last season among defenseman with a career-high 58 points, but he's on pace this season to do better. He fourth among the League's defensemen with 22 assists, and tied with Chicago's Brian Campbell
with 27 points, putting him on pace to establish new personal bests of 52 assists and 63 points.
-- Komisarek's offensive totals won't ever jump off the page, but all the other things he does impressed fans enough that he was voted to start his first All-Star Game.
Despite missing a month with a shoulder injury, Komisarek ranks third on the Canadiens with 72 blocked shots and fifth with 71 hits. He's also chipped in 2 points and is a plus-2 in his first 21 games.
-- The elevator continues to rise higher and higher for Carey Price
. Last season's wunderkind goaltender, who helped backstop the Canadiens to the best record in the Eastern Conference and the second round of the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, now has been voted to start his first All-Star Game. And he'll do it in front of his home fans at Montreal's Bell Centre.
He won 16 of his first 25 games, and was among the League leaders with a 2.30 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, and he's cemented himself as the full-time No. 1 goalie in Montreal. And his play this season has proven there was no hangover from his disappointing outing in the Eastern Conference semifinal loss to the Flyers.
-- Apparently no one has told Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane
about the sophomore jinx, because after his great rookie season, Kane is having a stellar second campaign. And the voters have noticed, making Kane the leading Western Conference vote-getter with more than 900,000.
Kane posted 16 goals and 41 points in his first 35 games. He's already close to matching last season's 21-goal total, and he's on pace for almost 100 points. Not to mention he's one of the faces of the greatest hockey resurgence in recent memory as the Blackhawks have moved to the front of the sporting conscience in the Windy City.
-- Assuming the role of team captain seemed to slow Jonathan Toews
at the start of the season, but he's grown into the role and the fans have responded, electing the second-year Chicago center to his first All-Star Game.
With 9 goals and 29 points in his first 35 games, Toews is on pace to duplicate his strong rookie season, when he finished with 24 goals and 54 points. More importantly this season, he's stayed healthy -- a knee injury cost him five weeks -- and his leadership has the Blackhawks not just in playoff contention, but challenging the Red Wings for the Central Division lead.
-- What hasn't Ryan Getzlaf
already accomplished in his short NHL career? Top-line center -- check. Stanley Cup champion -- check. All-Star performer -- check. Well, now you can add All-Star Game starter to the list of accolades for the Anaheim Ducks
center, as Getzlaf earned more than 700,000 votes in the selection process.
With 29 assists and 44 points, Getzlaf is among the League's scoring leaders, and his play on a line with Corey Perry
and Chris Kunitz
is keeping the Ducks among the League's elite teams.
--When the 156th pick of the 1997 Entry Draft was called, few ever thought defenseman Brian Campbell
would amount to much in the NHL. Now an elite NHL blueliner, fans have honored Campbell by voting him an All-Star Game starter for the second time in three seasons.
This will be Campbell's third straight All-Star appearance, but his first with the Blackhawks. With 6 goals, he's nearly eclipsed last season's total of 8, and he's on pace for his second straight 60-point season.
--After winning the 2007 Stanley Cup, Scott Niedermayer
needed some time off to decide if he wanted to play again. He decided to return, and obviously the fans have decided it was a good idea, as more than 630,000 of them voted for him to start the 2009 All-Star Game.
It will be Niedermayer's fifth midseason celebration, and second in a row. With 20 points in his first 39 games, Niedermayer is having another solid season, anchoring the Ducks' blue line and providing his quiet, calm leadership on and off the ice.
-- It's been a trying season for Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere
, but being voted to start his first All-Star Game could serve as a nice pick-me-up.
Giguere's father passed away in December after an illness; while that certainly has weighed on him, it's done little to affect his play. Giguere won 11 of his first 26 games and posted a pair of shutouts, along with a 2.96 goals-against average.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.