Yesterday we previewed the NHL All-Star game as a whole. Today we will break down the rosters, including who the top performers and players to watch will be in this exciting new 3-on-3 tournament format.
Forget the dancing and the smiles. With so much room to skate and $1 Million up for grabs, don’t think for a second these players are going to take it easy. Each team has their strength’s and weaknesses, except maybe the heavily favorited Central division which just seems ridiculous on paper.
Atlantic: The strength of this team lies in it’s defense. Shootout challenge champ PK Subban and two-time and reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson must be at their dynamic-selves if team Atlantic hopes to have a chance. They probably have the weakest group of forwards (Pacific), so super-sniper Steven Stamkos will really need to be on the money if they, well… want the money! Their goaltenders are big, athletic veterans who are calm under pressure and can really move the puck. Ben Bishop and Roberto Luongo are arguably the best goalie pairing in the event (Metropolitan).
Metropolitan: Alex Ovechkin couldn’t make it, but he isn’t even the Capitals leading scorer. Evgeny Kuznetsov has himself a ridiculous pair of mitts, and a Central Team absent of Jonathan Toews may have lost their title of best group of forwards. Evgeni Malkin and John Tavares are two of the best one-on-one players and natural scorers in the league and I personally cannot wait to watch them skate. They are powerful and calm, a good contrast with the playmaking styles of Nick Backstrom, Claude Giroux and Kuznetsov. Their defenseman are good two-way players, but they can be beat and don’t exactly have the star power some of their competitors have. Brayden Holtby is the NHL’s best goalie and likely MVP at this point, while Cory Schneider is a model of consistency.
Central: Losing Toews hurts alot more than people think. He’s the ultimate leader and even in an All-Star game that’s important. 3-on-3 can get out-of-hand quick, so it’s important to have poised leaders. Their D has to move the puck quickly to the forwards on the breakout for them to be at their best. Expect alot of one-timers and drop passes back to the D upon entering the zone as Big Buff,(Dustin Byfuglien) and Hardest Shot champ (108.1 Mph) and hometown Predator Shea Weber are really something to watch when hammering that little piece of rubber. Obviously Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin could steal the whole show as the NHL’s most dynamic duo, but Patrick Kane is the NHL’s leading scorer and has incredible hands. He is made for open-ice shiny style hockey. But the player I’m most intrigued to watch is definitely Vladimir Tarasenko. He may just be one of the top three players in the entire NHL and his goal-scoring ability will surely be put on display today.
Pacific: Being led by captain John Scott will inevitably hurt Team Pacific. Losing one player in an hour-long 3-on-3 game puts a ton more fatigue onto everybody ad really makes the team shorthanded. His inability to skate makes him a tremendous liability out there. I wouldn’t expect he plays close to the minutes his Pacific buddies do. Luckily this team is well balanced enough to compete albeit Scott‘s presence. Johnny Gaudreau, Taylor Hall, and Joe Pavelski are exceptionally quick in tight space, while Daniel Sedin provides that steady veteran presence that is necessary. His lofty passing could result in a ton of assists to a sniper like Corey Perry, as the two play at a slower pace than their three younger teammates. Jonathan Quick is a championship goalie, and John Gibson is young, but very athletic.