On 2022 NHL All-Star Game snubs, and who should be ‘Last Men in?’

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Yes, there are ways to enhance the NHL All-Star Game, including ways to cut down on “snubs.”

Truly, the league could pursue fun, entertainment, and … if they have time left over, a fair representation of each season’s NHL All-Stars. In a dream world, there would still be those messy, almost certainly drunken “fantasy draft” exercises to divide up teams. Maybe we could all even embrace the reality that “The Skills Competition” has been better than each All-Star Game since … (runs out of fingers to count with)?

But the bottom line is that all of the camouflage and flourishes can’t obscure the deeper reality that the 2022 NHL All-Star Game can only be so enthralling. It’s ultimately an exhibition for sponsors and fans (especially young ones).

If anything, it’s best to embrace the salty spirit of NHL All-Star snubs. Thanks to Nathan MacKinnon, we got at least a dash of that.

MacKinnon, Marchand on 2022 NHL All-Star Game snubs

One thing that validates the existence of NHL All-Star Games is that, when they happen, they can serve as neat time capsules.

For every Rory Fitzpatrick fan-voted surge that gets spiked, there’s the occasional John Scott All-Star Game show-stealer. In the case of the 2022 NHL All-Star Game, there was a chance to celebrate a shockingly strong season from Nazem Kadri.

When Kadri hasn’t been making waves with terrible playoff suspensions, he’s often been an underrated player. Yet, even those who noticed his sneaky-good work didn’t expect him to rank fourth in scoring with 48 points. This could’ve been a chance to remember it in a “formal” way.

[Check out the 2022 NHL All-Star Game rosters here]

But, there simply wasn’t room for Kadri, and that bothered Avalanche teammate Nathan MacKinnon.

“It’s silly. I don’t think every team should send a guy,” MacKinnon said, via Peter Baugh of The Athletic. ” … It’s an All-Star Game, not a Participation Game.”

Can we dock MacKinnon a point off the bat for referencing every crusty person on earth complaining about “participation medals?”

Anyway, MacKinnon has a point about how strenuous it can be to try to fill out rosters while including at least one player from the lowliest NHL teams.

[Seriously, it was tough to thread the needle under the league’s current format]

That said, his most prescient point was unintentional: again, the 2022 NHL All-Star Game, and snub talk … “it’s silly.”

Like it or not, NHL fans do want to see their teams represented, at least more often than not. We also shouldn’t ignore the elephant in the room: players often decide to skip out on the NHL All-Star Game, anyway. Sometimes even if it means getting suspended.

Add in the additional risk of players convening during the age of COVID, and you wonder if Brad Marchand and others aren’t exactly heartbroken about missing the 2022 NHL All-Star Game.

2022 NHL All-Star Game: Who should be ‘Last Men In?’

While by no means comprehensive, the league seized on the spirit of snub debates by letting fans vote on “The Last Men In” for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game. Voters can submit ballots here until Jan . 17.

Being that fans can submit “up to 10 ballots every 24 hours,” let’s try to gauge who should be “The Last Men In” in our own, PHT way. That’s with polls and some quick analysis.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins — Charlie McAvoy
Buffalo Sabres — Tage Thompson
Detroit Red Wings — Lucas Raymond
Florida Panthers —  Aleksander Barkov
Montreal Canadiens — Tyler Toffoli
Ottawa Senators — Brady Tkachuk
Tampa Bay Lightning — Steven Stamkos
Toronto Maple Leafs —  John Tavares

My pick: Steven Stamkos

Sheesh, isn’t it enough that Steven Stamkos still didn’t get to go to the Olympics? Let’s provide some solace in the form of an All-Star nod. Best yet, Stamkos very much deserves it. After the Lightning basically won a Stanley Cup without him, it seemed like Stammer’s best days were behind him. It was even plausible to trade him for salary cap space.

Yet, this season, he’s been brilliant. Most obviously, Stamkos ranks sixth in scoring with 45 points.

As nice as it would be for Charlie McAvoy to get more mainstream attention, or for Brady Tkachuk to get a chance to be a goofball on a national stage, Stamkos is the pick.

Metropolitan Division

Carolina Hurricanes — Andrei Svechnikov
Columbus Blue Jackets — Jakub Voracek
New Jersey Devils — Jesper Bratt
New York Islanders — Mathew Barzal
New York Rangers —  Mika Zibanejad
Philadelphia Flyers — Cam Atkinson
Pittsburgh Penguins — Jake Guentzel
Washington Capitals — Evgeny Kuznetsov

My pick: Jake Guentzel

Hopefully, this serves as a reminder that Jake Guentzel isn’t just some player who lives off of Sidney Crosby. Don’t get me wrong; Crosby enhances Guentzel’s play, but the underrated Penguins forward is brilliant in his own right. Stylistically, it would’ve been refreshing to see Mathew Barzal run free in an All-Star environment, but Guentzel’s the fair choice.

Western Conference

Central Division

Arizona Coyotes — Phil Kessel
Chicago Blackhawks — Seth Jones
Colorado Avalanche —  Nazem Kadri
Dallas Stars — Jason Robertson
Minnesota Wild — Ryan Hartman
Nashville Predators — Roman Josi
St. Louis Blues —  Robert Thomas
Winnipeg Jets — Mark Scheifele

My pick: Nazem Kadri

All of that talk about Nazem Kadri being an All-Star snub and … phew, it sure was close between him and Roman Josi.

Kadri has the substance to earn the Central Division “Last Men In” nod. There’s also the style, too. The novelty of a good but rarely heralded player beating a Norris Trophy winner feels just right.

(Just stop delivering bad hits, please, Kadri.)

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks — Troy Terry
Calgary Flames — Matthew Tkachuk
Edmonton Oilers — Darnell Nurse
Los Angeles Kings — Drew Doughty
San Jose Sharks — Logan Couture
Seattle Kraken — Mark Giordano
Vancouver Canucks —  J.T. Miller
Vegas Golden Knights — Jonathan Marchessault

My pick: Troy Terry

At minimum, each “Last Men In” pick has at least one really tough matchup. In the Pacific Division’s case, I struggled between Troy Terry and Matthew Tkachuk.

Between that stunning point streak, and just how fun the Ducks have been, Terry gets the edge. That said, maybe we can just make sure the Tkachuk brothers can attend the 2022 NHL All-Star Game anyway? Have some sibling skills competitions?

Anyway, which players would you add to the 2022 NHL All-Star Game rosters? And do you have any snubs to get off your chest? Do tell, and do vote.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.