Why not put the NHL All-Star game in the preseason?

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kovalevallstar.jpgThinking up cockamamie ideas about improving the NHL is a hobby for hockey nerds such as myself. So when I heard that the league plans to unveil the 2011 All-Star Game logo, I couldn’t help but think of ways to improve that glorified exhibition game. During the GM meetings, I brought up the fascinating if unlikely idea of “Team Ovechkin vs. Team Crosby” but I’d like to discuss another way to jazz up the proceedings.

Why not play the game in the preseason, when people are dying for hockey?

It’s really a concept that I think just about every sport should consider. Just look at the NFL. People are obsessed with the sport like no other in the United States yet the Pro Bowl receives a nationwide yawn. Why? Because it’s anticlimactic, whether you place the event in the week between the conference championships and the Super Bowl or a week after the big game.

But what if the NFL placed the Pro Bowl right around training camp? Now is the time when football fans are jonesing for some pigskin at a near-junkie level. I mean, seriously, if people are willing to watch exhibition games then wouldn’t they clamor for a bout between the league’s best? I think so.

The same logic can apply to hockey. Why have the All-Star Game in the middle of a brutal, 82-game season? Of course older players like Nicklas Lidstrom would prefer rest; what does he have to prove in such a meaningless game? By switching gears and putting it either right before the beginning of a new season or sometime before/during training camp, it could take advantage of how much people miss the NHL and give players a chance to tune up for the next season.

After the jump, I’ll talk about a few more pros and give you a chance to vote on whether this is a good idea or not.


Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nicklaslidstrom800.jpgBetter representation

One added advantage of doing a preseason game is that you could celebrate an entire season instead of relying on fan voting from just a portion of that year. With that in mind, you would have a better representation of which players were dominant during the previous season. Also, as I mentioned before, injuries would also be less of a concern.

Creative formats, such as “Beat the Defending Champions”

What if the league celebrated its Stanley Cup champions by having them play against an All-Star team? It could even be a great way to send-off that team; have them raise the Cup banner in their own barn, reunite the players who were on the ice for the Cup victory one last time before they depart due to free agency and maybe even raise the level of competition since that title-winning team will have built-in chemistry. Wouldn’t it be great to see Dustin Byfuglien in a Blackhawks uniform one last time?

Hyping the upcoming season

Some reasonably state that the All-Star Game exists to appease sponsors, but shouldn’t it be a way of promoting the sport itself? By holding it before the season, you can get people pumped to see hockey again. Let’s not forget that if you were to run the game on, say, a weekday to avoid football in September you’d also gain an opportunity to be the “only show in town.” (Yes, baseball will be going on but at least it won’t be the playoffs just yet.) Hockey will always get overshadowed by something, yet the NHL could at least give the event a fighting chance.

So, now that I’ve made the case for a preseason All-Star Game, what do you think? Would it be better that way or is a mid-season version a better idea? Vote in the poll below.


Oshie’s hat trick lets Caps just barely squeak by Penguins in OT

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What a start.

This series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals might be headlined by Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, but as many have said in the lead-up to tonight’s opener, there is so much more to this second round matchup than that. Washington’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 tonight could be offered up as Exhibit A.

This game had everything except big offensive showings from Crosby and Ovechkin. They had their moments, but in the end combined for just one assist.

What we got instead was a hat trick by T.J. Oshie that was completed with a game-winning goal that made it past the line by such a narrow margin that it warranted a video review:

This game also featured a sequence of three goals in 90 seconds and yet also some great saves by goaltenders Braden Holtby and Matt Murray. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a controversial hit by Tom Wilson that might lead to a suspension.

There was even some odd stuff. Like how Jay Beagle got a stick stuck in his equipment.

Twice:

If this game sets the tone for the rest of the series, then we should be in for a closely contested, highlight filled affair.

NOTES:

Nick Bonino had a goal and an assist for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin and Ben Lovejoy accounted for the Penguins’ other markers.

— Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky scored the game’s opening goal. It was his first marker of the 2016 playoffs.

— Washington outshot Pittsburgh 15-9 in the first period, but Pittsburgh ended up with a 45-35 edge.

— This is the first time in the 2016 playoffs that Braden Holtby has allowed more than two goals. He surrendered just five goals in six games to Philadelphia.

— Matt Murray suffered his first career postseason loss after winning three straight contests against the New York Rangers.

Video: Wilson delivers late, knee-on-knee hit to Sheary

Wilson hit
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Tom Wilson has already found himself in a controversy for delivering a late, knee-on-knee hit to Penguins forward Conor Sheary in the third period of Game 1 Thursday night.

You can see that incident below:

Wilson spent two minutes in the sin bin earlier in the contest for crosschecking Evgeni Malkin, but there was no penalty on this play.

Fortunately Conor Sheary was able to stay in the game. The question now is if Wilson’s actions will lead to him being suspended prior to Game 2.

This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with controversy. He delivered a big hit to Brayden Schenn in 2013, but Wilson wasn’t suspended for that incident. Lubomir Visnovsky’s final campaign was cut short due to a check by Wilson that angered the New York Islanders. More recently, Nikita Zadorov was concussed by a crushing blow from the Capitals forward.

In 231 career regular season games, Wilson has 50 points and 486 penalty minutes.

Related: Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

Video: Penguins, Caps combine for three goals in 90 seconds

Oshie goal
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For the first 30 minutes of Game 1 between Pittsburgh and Washington it looked like goaltenders Matt Murray and Braden Holtby might outshine these star-studded offenses. Then the floodgates opened up, if only for a moment.

Washington already had a 1-0 lead going into the second frame courtesy of Andre Burakovsky‘s first marker of the 2016 playoffs, but Ben Lovejoy and Evgeni Malkin scored back-to-back goals within the span of 57 seconds midway through the second period to tilt the scale in Pittsburgh’s favor. That lead didn’t last for long though as Capitals forward T.J. Oshie got a breakaway opportunity and took full advantage of it.

In total, there were three goals scored in the span of just 90 seconds and you can see all of them below:

After that sequence, the 2-2 tie held for the remainder of the frame. However, Oshie was able to reassert Washington’s edge just 3:23 minutes into the third period.

Video: Beagle gets stick stuck in visor

Beagle
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Through 40 minutes of action in Game 1 of the second round series between Pittsburgh and Washington and we’ve already seen some big moments, along with a pretty unusual one.

Beagle ended up with a stick lodged into his visor towards the end of the second frame. He tried to get it out himself, but ended up having to go to the bench for assistance. You can see that below: