Wayne Simmonds named All-Star Game MVP
Flyers forward scores game-winning goal for Metropolitan Divisionby Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer
LOS ANGELES -- It was more than 45 minutes after he was named the 2017 Honda NHL All-Star Game MVP when Metropolitan Division forward Wayne Simmonds walked into the press conference room and sat down in front of the microphone.
It wasn't enough time for Simmonds, the Philadelphia Flyers lone All-Star this year, to comprehend what just happened, what he had just done, the exclusive fraternity he had just joined in his first career All-Star Game.
"It's all pretty surreal," said Simmonds, who was awarded a 2017 Honda Ridgeline truck for winning the MVP.
Simmonds scored the game-winning goal on a 2-on-0 rush with left wing Taylor Hall to help the Metropolitan Division defeat the Pacific Division 4-3 in the final at Staples Center on Sunday. He scored with 4:58 remaining, five seconds after Metropolitan Division forward Cam Atkinson scored to the game at 3-3.
Video: MET@PAC: Simmonds hammers home the feed from Hall
Simmonds also scored the Metropolitan Division's first two goals in its 10-6 win against the Atlantic Division in the semifinal game. He is the second player in Flyers history to win the All-Star Game MVP, joining Reggie Leach (1980).
"I don't even know if I realize what's going on right now, but it's pretty cool," Simmonds said.
Simmonds was thrilled when he was named an All-Star on Jan. 10. Not only did it mean he was being recognized as one of the best players in the League, a title he earned this season with 21 goals and 38 points in 50 games, it also meant a return to the city where his career began.
The Los Angeles Kings selected Simmonds with the 61st pick in the 2007 NHL Draft. He played 240 games over three seasons and scored 39 goals and 93 points with the Kings before they traded him to the Flyers with Brayden Schenn and a draft pick for Mike Richards on June 23, 2011.
Simmonds wasn't sure of the reaction he would get from his former fans Sunday. He was pleasantly shocked because they cheered loudly for him.
Video: Simmonds named MVP of All-Star Game
"It meant a lot," Simmonds said. "I've been in Philadelphia for the last six years and when you leave a place, you don't expect to come back and get all the cheers I got today. I must have done something right when I was here. I know I had a lot of die-hard fans here and I really appreciate those people. I just appreciate everything. They made me feel good today."
One of those fans was playing for the Pacific Division, and was on the ice when Simmonds scored the game-winner.
Defenseman Drew Doughty is still one of Simmonds' closest friends. They were drafted by the Kings a year apart (Doughty was the No. 2 pick in 2008) and used to be road roommates.
They are also competitive against one another, which is why Simmonds was hoping for Doughty to be on the ice if he got the chance to do something special Sunday.
Simmonds skated past Doughty to get open on the 2-on-0 with Hall for the game-winning goal.
"I thought [Joe Pavelski] was going to get the puck, so I kind of just let [Simmonds] go by me and I was going to try to go the other way," Doughty said. "Then when he had one step on me, he's faster on me, so I was [out of luck]."
Video: Wayne Simmonds on being named All-Star Game MVP
Simmonds, though, admitted to using some gamesmanship on Doughty before the referee dropped the puck.
"I stuck my stick in his helmet and kind of flipped it up, so possibly he was trying to fix it and I just took off," Simmonds said. "I said to [Hall] before the game, 'I'm going to drive backdoor on one of these plays and probably be a foot from the net, just hit me with the puck and hopefully I can put it in.' It's funny because it was exactly what we spoke about."
Simmonds also took advantage of Atlantic Division defenseman Erik Karlsson in the first game.
He stripped the puck from Karlsson and beat him down the ice before flipping a forehanded shot over goalie Carey Price's right shoulder to give the Metropolitan Division a 1-0 lead at 2:12 of the first period. He also stole the puck from Karlsson in the slot and scored glove side to make it 2-1 at 4:49.
Video: MT@ATL: Simmonds steals puck, scores on breakaway
It was an impressive start for a player who was hoping to make an impression.
"Having played against him over the years, I think I understand how good he is and what he brings," Metropolitan Division captain Sidney Crosby said. "He's got great hands, speed, goes to the net really hard and there aren't too many guys that have the mean streak and toughness that he has. All those things combined, it's well-deserved. There's a reason why he's here."
And there's a reason he can call himself an All-Star Game MVP, even if he can't quite comprehend it yet.
"Weird," Simmonds said. "They asked me just how being an All-Star sounds and I said, 'weird.' It's awesome. It's definitely an honor."