MONTREAL'S RED LIGHT DISTRICT: East 12, West 11 (SO)
River hockey was in full display last night as the Eastern Conference All-Stars defeated the Western Conference All-Stars 12-11 in a shootout in Montreal's Bell Centre.
This was a game pretty much the same as all other all-star games, with defense at a minimum and iffense on display. If you want to see actual hockey getting played, forget it.
The weekend, from a Blackhawks perspective, actually wasn't too bad. The only Hawk who dressed and didn't score a goal was the one with the heftiest paycheck. Dave Bolland scored in the Young Stars game on Saturday night, and both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane scored goals in the third period that gave the West the lead, which they soon relinquished each time. Only Brian Campbell skated and came away without a souvenir puck.
Toews' goal was your basic Toews goal. Just snapped the shot over Tim Thomas' head, roofing it. Kane's goal was encouraging, since a) he remembered what it felt like to hit twine, and b) it was a nice breakway, and it looks like he's got his giddyup back. Which is what the Hawks need in the coming weeks, with their nut-cruncher of a schedule.
A word about the goalies. Anytime there's 23 goals scored in a game, it's easy to think the goalies were mailing it in. However, there were 102 shots total, with some pretty goddamn sweet saves by guys who were being left naked back there.
In fact, with about 3 minutes left in regulation, both teams suddenly realized they were going to have to stick around longer if the game ended in a tie, and suddenly backchecking and board battles appeared. In the overtime period, the first penalty in 7 years of all star play (a hook? In OT? Really?) was called.
Game MVP Alexei Kovalev scored two goals in game play, and added one in the shootout. This totals more shots than he took in his entire New York Rangers career. Alex Ovechkin won it with his shootout goal. While the NHL is busting their ass to make Sidney Crosby their cover boy, Ovechkin symbolizes everything great about the game. He's ugly as sin, which is not a detriment to a hockey player. What makes him great is not only his skill, but the obvious joy with which he plays the game. He was more entertaining this weekend than all the other all stars combined.
Finally, a good show put on by Montreal. As an old Hawk fan, it wasn't all that great to see guys who kept the Hawks from winning the Cup in '71 and '73, but to see greats like Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Yvan Cournoyer and Serge Savard was pretty awesome. Ah, screw those guys.
The season for the Hawks resumes in earnest Wednesday night with a West Coast swing, beginning in Anaheim to face the red-hot Ducks.