NASHVILLE — So much for the defeatist theory that the All-Star Game was beyond saving.
Sunday at Bridgestone Arena, fans were treated to 60 minutes of compelling and entertaining hockey. No word of a lie, there was genuine intensity and competitiveness on display out there. Heck, Patrice Bergeron might have earned a few Selke Trophy votes.
“It was fun, we were trying to win,” said Anaheim’s Corey Perry, who scored the only goal in Team Pacific’s 1-0 victory over Team Atlantic in the final.
“You want to win. At the end of the day, you want to win.”
Except, as we all know, that hasn’t always been the case in the All-Star Game. Last year in Columbus, the final score was 17-12. Defense wasn’t merely optional; it was nonexistent.
That’s why they changed the format to three-on-three and came up with a million bucks for the winners.
“And that’s what everybody was embracing,” said Perry. “I think after last year and changing it up and coming into a different format, I thought it was great.”
Was he tired after the game?
“It was getting tough out there,” he said. “Last minute and 20 seconds in your own end. It gets tiring.”
“We were mucking and grinding,” joked Sharks defenseman Brent Burns. “We wanted to represent our division. That’s the way we roll over there. Every night. Tough game.”
On Saturday, Burns had bristled when it was suggested that the effort level had been lacking in previous All-Star Games.
“Would you prefer a 1-0 game?” he asked.
Which is kinda funny in hindsight. Though to be fair, 23 goals were scored today. Seven in the first mini-game; 15 in the second; and just the one in the final. Overall, there was no shortage of offense. No shortage of fun, either.
Ultimately, what today proved was that there was a happy medium to be found between the hard-working, shot-blocking, all-business hockey we see in the regular season and playoffs, and the lackluster shinny we saw last year in Columbus.
“I think it just enabled you to work harder,” said Burns of the move to three-on-three. “You know, five on five…it’s sometimes hard to hack a guy down after he’s made a nice move to get a breakaway. You kind of want to let him ride that out and show the fans what he can do. Three-on-three enabled that a little bit more.”