Monday, January 28, 2008

East Cleans Up

The Eastern Conference won the Super Skills competition on Saturday night, and they managed to put the puck into the net with just over 20 seconds left in the third to take the lead and then win the All Star game last night, too. From
The Eastern All-Stars nearly blew a 5-1 first-period lead to the surging Western Conference. The East needed Carolina’s Eric Staal and the Bruins’ Marc Savard to score the game’s final two goals to tie and then take the lead.


In the opening 20 minutes, the East jumped out to a 5-1 lead as Staal, Montreal’s Andrei Markov, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (two) and Buffalo’s Brian Campbell scored. The offensive tone was actually set by Columbus’ Rick Nash, who scored just 12 seconds into the game. That broke an All-Star record established by Ted Lindsay in 1950.


My sentiments EXACTLY.

San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov was stellar in the second period, stopping all eight shots he faced to help the resurgent West get back into contention with goals from Nash and Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer to cut the lead to 5-3 after two periods.


With the Western Conference pressing once again for the lead, Bruins’ Marc Savard, a former Thrasher who had heard it from his former hometown fans throughout the weekend, scored off passes from Campbell and Staal with 20.9 seconds left to win it for the East.
Staal was inexplicably named MVP over Nash, who earned a hat trick after scoring 12 seconds into the first period (an All Star record). For his efforts, Staal was given a Dodge minivan, which he mentioned that he might regift to his parents. ("I'll definitely be the favorite if I give them this!" he quipped.)

From left to right: Ilya Kovalchuk, Sergei Gonchar (w00t), Evgeni Malkin (w00t), Andrei Markov, and Alex Ovechkin represent the Eastern Conference in the Super Skills competition.

The Super Skills competition was revamped to add a little life to it. The best part of the night came in the shootout competition, which was judged by "celebrity" judges. The players were awarded points in the same manner figure skaters are awarded points. Emphasis was placed on the creativity of the shot, not whether the player scored the goal or not.

As much as I hate to admit it, Ovechkin was the clear winner here. He had a few attempts to show off. As he raced down the ice, he picked the puck up off the ice with the blade of his stick, bounced (dribbled?) it a few times, then tossed it up in the air and tried to bat it on goal like a baseball. The first time didn't work, and neither did the second try. For his third try, he repeated the above steps but tossed the puck several feet in the air on the last step. He then did a 360° spin and then tried to swat it in like a baseball. All three times he missed the puck completely on the last step (“I’m a terrible baseball player,” Ovechkin admitted later.), but what a showman! That would have been a highlight for the ages if he had made the goal. Even I almost forgot how much I dislike the guy - ALMOST. ;)

If you happened to catch the game, then you know our boys Evgeni Malkin (filling in for Sid), Sergei Gonchar, and Kris Letang did us proud, too. The break ends for the Pens tomorrow when the team travels to New Jersey to face the Devils. GO PENS!!!

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