Once considered a fait accompli, the idea that the host Montreal Canadiens
would fill out the entire starting roster for the Eastern Conference in the 2009 All-Star Game is no longer taken as a given.
Go look at the vote totals as of Monday morning for proof.
Since voting opened Nov. 12, Canadiens have occupied the top-three forward spots, the top-two defensemen spots and the top goaltending spot.
But during the weekend, the Sidney Crosby
insurgency vote -- based in Pittsburgh, but taking on national overtones -- has paid dividends. "Sid The Kid" now tops all forwards -- and all players -- with 551,401 votes. He has picked up 140,322 votes in the past four days.
Penguin teammate Evgeni Malkin
, meanwhile, sits in fifth place with 482,557 votes. Malkin leads the League with 43 points and the red-hot Crosby has 40 points.
In between those two Penguins sit the three Montreal forwards: Alex Kovalev
(513,842), Saku Koivu
(512,684) and Alex Tanguay
Penguins are also making inroads at the other positions as their fans stuff the ballot box with unbelievable fervor.
Amazingly, Pittsburgh's Sergei Gonchar
and Ryan Whiney sit at No. 3 and No. 4 in Eastern Conference voting despite not playing yet this year. Gonchar, injured in the exhibition season and out until after the All-Star Game, is just 150,000 votes behind second-place Mike Komisarek
Whitney, who has been out since before training camp, is again skating with the team in preparation of his return. He is 30,000 votes behind Gonchar.
Even Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
, currently on IR, has closed within 155,000 votes of Montreal's Carey Price
, the positional leader.
But it is not just Penguins that are making up ground as we head into the second half of the voting window. Out West, Patrick Kane
is threatening to crack the top three forward spots, sitting just 34,000 behind Jarome Iginla
, who is in third place. Maybe his campaign commercial, discussed in this space Friday, is paying dividends.
To get a starting spot, though, Kane has to climb past Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg
, who is just 7,000 votes behind the Calgary captain. Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk
and Marian Hossa
hold the first two forward spots, but could still be overtaken by Iginla, Kane or Zetterberg.
Clearly, as Pittsburgh fans have shown this week, your vote matters. So get out and vote often, using the platform on NHL.com or by texting your favorite player or favorite team to 81812.
-- Shawn P. Roarke