Those of us that watched last year's NHL All-Star Game in Columbus were mortified at the end. It was horrifying. It did not look like hockey. It lacked energy, effort, and well, hockey. It looked like figure skating and was embarrassing for the NHL and humiliating for the sport.
Gary Bettman and the NHL knew they needed to make a change to this year's format in Nashville if they wanted to at least make the effort to have the All-Star Game not appear as a cash-grab for the sport. It still is, but at least tonight's festivities were fun to watch and didn't want to make you run full-speed into a brick wall. Making it division versus division and putting up a million dollar prize fund was what it took to make things enjoyable.
The All-Star Game got three games, and here's a breakdown on how each went:
Metropolitan vs. Atlantic:
As an Avalanche fan whose interests were vested in the second game between the Central and Pacific, the first game was merely watched to see how exactly three on three for twenty minutes in the all-star game would pan out. Would it be better than past games, the same, or was it possible that it could be worse? It didn't take long to realize that this was much better and worthy of staying tuned in too.
The game itself was back and forth and a good watch. The Metropolitans had to score late to force a shootout overtime, and had a couple good looks, but Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning made some quality saves, and Claude Giroux refused to shoot the puck in attempt to force overtime and simply stick-handled and passed instead. That preserved a 4-3 win for the Atlantic and a spot in the finals.
Atlantics: Erik Karlsson (OTT), Jaromir Jagr (FLA), Aaron Ekblad (FLA), P.K Subban (MTL).
Metropolitans: Kris Letang (PIT), Evgeny Kuznetsov (WSH), Evgeni Malkin (PIT).
Central vs. Pacific:
This one was all about John Scott. After getting voted in by fans as a joke, and then dealing with the NHL trying to eliminate him from the game by going to extents such as uprooting Scott and his family from sunny Arizona to snowy Montreal, Scott was not only entertaining but effective in this contest. He scored twice, had a joking "fight" with Patrick Kane after Kane scored a goal for the Centrals. This one featured much more scoring than the Eastern matchup, ending 9-6, probably because the Western Conference is better than the East, but hey, the east coast bias media will probably try to tell you it was something else.
Pacifics: John Scott (John Scott) twice, Joe Pavelski (SJ), Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Daniel Sedin (VAN) twice, Taylor Hall (EDM) twice, Drew Doughty (LA).
Centrals: James Neal (NSH) twice [BOTH ASSISTED BY MATT DUCHENE OF THE COLORADO AVALANCHE], Patrick Kane (CHI), Dustin Byfuglien (WPG), Tyler Seguin (DAL), Roman Josi (NSH).
Atlantic vs. Pacific:
In this ocean versus ocean battle, the Atlantics faced the Pacifics while the Indian Oceans simultaneously played the Arctics in Lisbon, Portugal. The first half of this championship matchup was all goaltending. Roberto Luongo of the Panthers and Jonathan Quick of the Kings were spectacular, and no goals were given up. Let me say that again in all caps for context. NO GOALS WERE GIVEN UP... IN AN ALL-STAR GAME. What kind of planet is this?! John Scott scoring goals in a game than Patrick Kane and an all-star period in which it ended 0-0?! Holy Moses!
Ben Bishop of the Lightning and John Gibson of the Ducks were also up to the task of being phenomenal, and Gibson followed up Quick's performance by pitching a shutout himself. He REFUSED to have the Kings get the upper-hand on the Ducks tonight, forcing a tie between the rivals instead. Corey Perry of those same Mighty Ducks of Anaheim got the game's lone goal, beating Ben Bishop with just under seven minutes left. The Atlantic tried to score, but to no avail. 1-0 was the ending number and an entertaining game was concluded.
As stated earlier, this format was a huge win. Never change this. It works. It was fun. It looked like hockey and was not some cheap, comical substitute.
Also, John Scott is the man. What a middle finger to Gary Bettman and the league office. That was phenomenal. Two goals and being the captain of the winning division. Oh man. Just glorious.