NHL All-Star Game rosters announced; Let the snub talk begin

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The NHL announced the rest of the all-stars who will be taking part in the All-Star Game festivities the final weekend of January in Raleigh, North Carolina. While the All-Star Game starters were dominated by Penguins and Blackhawks, everyone else had to be represented somehow either by way of a player in the game itself or a rookie taking part in the skills competition on Saturday night. As always, the choices are generating discussion over who made it and who didn’t.

Here’s how the rosters break down for the team captains to choose from during the the All-Star Game draft set to take place the Friday before the game. The asterisk denotes who the starters are. Keep in mind, captains will be chosen by the players and announced on January 18th.

Forwards

Sidney Crosby (PIT)*
Jonathan Toews (CHI)*
Evgeni Malkin (PIT)*
Eric Staal (CAR)
Patrick Sharp (CHI)
Patrick Kane (CHI)
Henrik Sedin (VAN)
Daniel Sedin (VAN)
Ryan Kesler (VAN)
Steve Stamkos (TB)
Martin St. Louis (TB)
Alex Ovechkin (WAS)
Jarome Iginla (CGY)
Rick Nash (CMB)
Anze Kopitar (LA)
Patrik Elias (NJ)
Corey Perry (ANH)
Brad Richards (DAL)
Loui Eriksson (DAL)
Matt Duchene (COL)
Phil Kessel (TOR)
Ales Hemsky (EDM)
Claude Giroux (PHI)
David Backes (STL)

Defensemen

Duncan Keith (CHI)*
Kris Letang (PIT)*
Nicklas Lidstrom (DET)
Dustin Byfuglien (ATL)
Tobias Enstrom (ATL)
Marc Staal (NYR)
Mike Green (WAS)
Erik Karlsson (OTT)
Brent Burns (MIN)
Zdeno Chara (BOS)
Shea Weber (NSH)
Dan Boyle (SJ)

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT)*
Cam Ward (CAR)
Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)
Tim Thomas (BOS)
Carey Price (MON)
Jonas Hiller (ANH)

Rookie representatives

Jeff Skinner (CAR)
Cam Fowler (ANH)
Michael Grabner (NYI)
Kevin Shattenkirk (COL)
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (PHX)
Taylor Hall (EDM)
Tyler Seguin (BOS)
Jordan Eberle (EDM)
Tyler Ennis (BUF)
Evgeny Dadonov (FLA)
Logan Couture (SJ)
Derek Stepan (NYR)

Instant reactions:

Under-representation?

Don’t think it won’t go unnoticed that division leaders Philadelphia and Detroit are each sending just one player to the All-Star Game. Claude Giroux and Nick Lidstrom are both having outstanding seasons but notably absent from both teams are Daniel Briere and his 21 goals or team scoring leader Mike Richards from Philly and Henrik Zetterberg from Detroit.

Zetterberg is tied for 6th in the NHL in scoring with Brad Richards and couldn’t crack the list of  21 additional forwards named. For what it’s worth, forward is where a lot of teams have their lone representative coming from (Calgary, Los Angeles, Columbus, Toronto, St. Louis, Philadelphia) so that plays into things. Could there be politics afoot here as well though?

Remember back to the 2009 All-Star Game when Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk missed out on the weekend’s festivities with what they felt were “injuries.” The NHL didn’t buy their reasons for skipping out on All-Star Weekend and suspended them each for one game for ducking out. Think that was in the back of the minds of those putting together this roster? Speculate away.

Montreal’s lone representative being Carey Price isn’t surprising as Price has been the team’s MVP so far this year. Still, it would’ve been a lot of fun to see flashy rookie P.K. Subban get a shot in the skills competition. You have to wonder if they looked the other way on Subban because of the griping done by some players over Subban’s showboat style and ability to run his mouth on the ice.

Phil Kessel getting the nod over teammate Mikhail Grabovsky is a bit curious given that Grabovsky has had a better season. Only one Maple Leaf player was likely going to get picked and going with the less-abrasive Kessel probably makes for a “nicer” weekend.

Other notable snubs: Alexander Semin (WAS), Thomas Vanek (BUF), Martin Havlat (MIN), Ryan Suter (NSH), Jack Johnson (LA)

What, no Tavares?

Buffalo, Florida, Phoenix, and the Islanders will only be represented thanks to rookies in the Skills Competition. Grabner’s selection as a rookie makes us wonder what, exactly John Tavares has to do with a bad Isles team to get represented in the actual All-Star Game itself. Tavares has 14 goals and 14 assists for what is a brutal team. We get that there are a ton of forwards eligible to be picked as all-stars but can’t we throw the kid a bone for being the face of the team and doing well in spite of all the problems the Isles have had this year?

Team we’re surprised to see get such heavy representation: Edmonton

The Oilers are sending three players, one All-Star and two rookies, to the game and we’re actually far more excited by Hall and Eberle as rookie reps than we are by Hemsky in the game itself.

Position that will cause most griping: Goalie

The selections made for the game are outstanding as all six players are having solid seasons. That will be of little consolation to fans of the Predators, Panthers, and Thrashers though as they each wanted to see their guys get the call. Pekka Rinne, Tomas Vokoun, and Ondrej Pavelec are each outstanding in their own right and at the least Rinne would’ve had some benefit if the West vs. East format were around this year. Five goalies chosen for the game this year are from the Eastern Conference.

Vokoun and Pavelec each have had solid seasons so far, but with so many goalies having great years, some guys just get lost in the shuffle. Still, what a story it would’ve been for Pavelec to bounce back after his scary start to the year passing out on the ice on opening night to being an All-Star.

And just think, this is all without mentioning Roberto Luongo of Vancouver and Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles, both very deserving of being All-Stars but not making the cut. Perhaps this is just another case of wild Eastern bias. Quick’s numbers have been outstanding all year even in spite of the Kings’ recent struggles. Luongo has long been an All-Star Game staple and seeing him be an afterthought this year is pretty stunning in its own right. It’s just been that kind of year for goaltending.

Overall, we’re excited by the format and the debate over who the team captains will be can begin in earnest now that everyone’s been named to the team. Our money would go to Eric Staal being named as one of the captains and picking a side for the home fans in Carolina to be able to openly root for. Whether it’s Crosby, Toews, Lidstrom, or Ovechkin picking the other team will be a fascinating discussion amongst the players.

Braden Holtby dominated when the Capitals needed him most

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WASHINGTON — The Washington Capitals weren’t ready for their season to come to an end.

By playing what might have been their most complete game of the playoffs, they were able to force a Game 7 (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in the Eastern Conference final with a 3-0 win in Washington on Monday night, picking up their first home win of the series in what was a total team effort.

While the Capitals were playing a relentlessly physical game and getting big performances from T.J. Oshie (two goals) and Devante Smith-Pelly, it was starting goalie Braden Holtby playing what might have been his best and biggest game of the season to help drive it the win and extend their season to a winner-take-all game in Tampa on Wednesday.

After the game Capitals coach Barry Trotz called Holtby “the backbone” of their team, and there were times on Monday night where they needed him to be exactly that.

[Related: PHT Three Stars]

While he didn’t have to face a ton of shots (Tampa Bay managed just 24 shots on goal for the game) he was still tested by a powerful Lightning attack and needed to be called upon to make some massive saves to record his first shutout of the season, a rather stunning stat considering he led the league in shutouts a year ago with nine.

“The only reason is it is good is you know you won,” said Holtby when asked about not recording a shutout this season until Monday. “Aside from that it’s just another statistic for you guys to write about. For us it is just that ‘W’ that matters.”

Well, they got that W in large part because of Holtby’s play. Even though they ended up with a three-goal edge on the scoreboard at the end of the night, it could have easily shifted in another direction numerous times.

With the game still scoreless in the second period, for example, he made a huge pad save on Anthony Cirelli when he broke in all alone on an odd-man rush.

In the third period he helped preserve what was at the time a one-goal lead when he made an incredible glove save on a wide open Nikita Kucherov as he flew down the middle of the ice after coming off the bench on a perfectly timed line change.

Holtby downplayed that save after the game.

“I think that save probably looks better than it actually is,” Holtby said.” There are some that are more difficult than that. I think it was just the positioning and where the puck was. I was just trying to stay in the moment, focus on the puck, and make the save.”

It turned out to be a massive save because just a few minutes later Smith-Pelly delivered what was probably the knockout punch for the game the when he scored his fourth goal of the playoffs to give the Capitals a two-goal lead.

Until that second goal was scored the Capitals had spent most of the period leaning on Holtby to stand tall and he was more than up to the task.

Overall this has been a bizarre season for Holtby.

In terms of his overall statistics it was probably his worst one since he became the Capitals’ starting goalie. After a so-so start he struggling mightily over the last two months and then ended up starting the playoffs on the bench in Games 1 and 2 of the first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in place of Philipp Grubauer.

But after Grubauer struggled and the Capitals were facing a two-game deficit, Holtby reclaimed his starting spot and has done what he has done throughout his career in the playoffs — give his team a chance just about every single night.

Given how well Holtby has played in his career in the postseason it is downright staggering that his team hasn’t had more success in the playoffs. His career save percentage in the playoffs is the second best all-time and he’s rarely, if ever, had a poor showing over an entire series. It has just always come down to there at times being a goalie at the other end of the ice that has been just a little bit better.

Goaltending has been the big story of this series and even if it’s oversimplifying things to say, the team with the best goalie has won every game.

After dropping three games in a row and sending their season to the brink of what could have been another soul-crushing end the Capitals needed their goalie to be the better one on Monday night.

He was.

Now they need him to do it one more time on Wednesday.

MORE:
• 
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• 
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Capitals force Game 7 vs. Lightning with all-around effort

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The Washington Capitals needed the best version of themselves to force a deciding game in the Eastern Conference Final, and that’s exactly what they got at home on Monday.

Hockey fans will be treated to a Game 7 (Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to determine who will face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final, which will begin Monday, May 28.

And if that game is half as good as Game 6 was, a treat is exactly what fans will get.

Yes, Game 6 between the Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning might have been the most exciting game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far — not bad for a 3-0 final score.

The scoreline was far from indicative of what happened on the ice. Washington was desperate, but not reckless. Calm and composed, they controlled much of the game and were finally rewarded in the second period via T.J. Oshie‘s power-play marker from the slot — Oshie’s first of two in the game as he added an empty-netter to seal the win late in the third.

The Capitals probably should have won by more, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was in the zone for most of the night.

Down 3-2 coming into Monday, and losers of three straight after taking a 2-0 series lead, the Capitals needed a hero to avoid another humiliating exit from the playoffs.

[PHT’s Three Stars: Holtby, Smith-Pelly help Capitals force Game 7]

Oshie stepped up, for sure.

Braden Holtby looked determined, evidenced by his 24-save shutout with the stakes never higher.

And while Alex Ovechkin looked like a man-possessed in early on — finishing with five shots on goal, one of three Capitals players to do so — it was Devante Smith-Pelly who really shined.

Smith-Pelly put on a physical masterclass early — finishing the game with five hits, including the massacre above.

Then, Smith-Pelly helped the Caps out on the scoresheet.

Chandler Stephenson won a race to beat out the icing call. The puck made its way around the back of Tampa’s net, and Jay Beagle pushed it back to Stephenson, whose backhand pass from behind Vasilevskiy found a streaking Smith-Pelly for a 2-0 lead.

And man, did that goal mean something to DSP. Watch the celly:

It was a heroic effort from Smith-Pelly, Oshie and Holtby, and they’ll need one more before they can truly say they’ve exorcised their playoff demons.

They’ll have 48 hours from now to figure out their course of attack for Game 7, and Tampa will have the same amount of time to pick themselves back up again after the beating they took in the game.

Bring on Game 7, we’re all ready.

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT’s Three Stars: Holtby, Smith-Pelly help Capitals force Game 7

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1st Star: Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

The Capitals netminder played outstanding Monday night as they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-0 to force a Game 7. Holtby made 24 saves for his first shutout of the season and fifth career in the postseason.

2nd Star: Devante Smith-Pelly, Washington Capitals

Smith-Pelly had himself a game. First, he took out two players, including Jay Beagle, in a big hit behind the Tampa net. Later, he scored the Capitals’ second goal after Chandler Stephenson negated an icing and sent a sweet pass to the front of the net to find a charging DSP.

3rd Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

In keeping the game close, the Lightning netminder did all he could as his offense tried to find a way to beat Holtby. Vasilevskiy stopped 31 shots in a losing effort.

[Capitals force Game 7 vs. Lightning with all-around effort]

Highlight of the Night: Like we said, Vasilevskiy did what he could:

Factoid of the Night: The 2018 Stanley Cup Final will begin Monday, May 28 in either Las Vegas or Tampa Bay. Here’s the full schedule as we await the matchup:

Game 1 Monday, May 28
Game 2 Wednesday, May 30
Game 3 Saturday, June 2
Game 4 Monday, June 4
Game 5* Thursday, June 7
Game 6* Sunday, June 10
Game 7* Wednesday, June 13
* = If necessary

Wednesday’s schedule: Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN (Series tied 3-3)

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Andrei Vasilevskiy robs Evgeny Kuznetsov (Video)

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Surely, the Washington Capitals should be leading Game 6.

They came out on fire, led by Alex Ovechkin, and stayed that way throughout the first period.

Their only problem? Andrei Vasilevskiy and the wall he put up.

Vasilevskiy needed to be solid to stop on the Capitals’ onslaught and he was, write down to the final moments of the period and his best save, a sprawling glove-hand effort to stop Evgeny Kuznetsov in his tracks on the doorstep to keep the game tied 1-1.

Fatigued? Vasilevskiy wasn’t showing any of that in the first period.

After two sub .850 outings in Games 1 and 2, Vasilevskiy has stormed back to spark the Lightning to three straight wins behind his strong play.

• Stream here
Series preview
Capitals vs. Lightning: Three questions facing each team

Capitals have to conquer postseason demons one more time
Lightning ready for a ‘desperate’ Capitals team in Game 6
Vasilevskiy turns East final around for Lightning

MORE:
Conference Finals schedule, TV info
NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck