A week away from the Super Bowl, All-Star festivities in the NFL and NHL commence this weekend. The NHL Al-Star Game is keeping the same format they’ve been using since 2016. They’ve done full games between the Eastern and Western Conference, along with pitting North American players against Europe. Now they’ve gone to what feels like a mini game feature in NHL Hitz the video game. If anyone knows the game I am talking about then kudos.
For a recap, the new All-Star format is a tournament format between the four divisions. In Game 1, All Stars from the Central will take on All Stars from the Pacific, and then in then in the Eastern Conference, the Metropolitan will play the Atlantic.
Note that they will play 3-on-3 for 20 minutes. A shootout will follow if teams are tied. Ratings must be up because they are sticking with the format, something they haven’t been able to stick with over the years. They also had the fantasy draft game, which was probably my least favourite of them all.
We will take a look and review the matchup between the Atlantic Division and Pacific Division. As far as the Eastern Conference is concerned, there are a lot of teams bunched up that are going to have an opportunity to reach the playoffs in the second-half. It’s even more bunched up out in the Western Conference at the moment, though.
The surprises in the Eastern Conference include the Islanders, who go into the break 1st in the Metropolitan. The start by the Canadiens has caught some off guard as well. The most notable absentee from this game will be Alex Ovechkin on Team Metropolitan. He is sitting this one out to rest up for the second-half push. The Metro is going to have to overcome an Atlantic team who have talented teammates playing alongside one another. Head below for our free NHL All-Star Game pick in the Metropolitan vs. Atlantic showdown.
Metropolitan Division vs. Atlantic Division Pick
Ovechkin will not be playing, but his teammates, Braden Holtby and John Carlson will be. I don’t know if Holtby playing is necessarily a good thing, though. He has been having all kinds of issues recently getting on track. Almost like a switch, he’s gone from playing solid hockey to playing like anything but an All-Star. His recent outings have looked more like a backup in net rather than a starting goaltender, never mind an All-Star.
He has allowed a whopping 16 goals in his last three starts. In his last two games alone, Holtby has surrendered 12 goals. His numbers have slipped north of 3.00, with a 3.11 GAA and 0.905 save percentage. Also, in net for the Metropolitan will be Henrik Lundqvist. Unfortunately, he will not be at home in NYC for this one.
Lundqvist has played well at home, but a 3.46 GAA and 0.901 save percentage will have to improve in the second-half. He goes into the All-Star Game with an overall GAA of 3.01 and 0.908 save percentage. Robin Lehner deserves to be here instead of Henrik, which I think is more of a sentimental thing with him nearing the end of his storied career. On performance alone from this season, the nod had to go to Lehner over both Holtby and Lundqvist. If the Islanders win the Metropolitan, he may have a bigger award waiting for him at the end of the season.
Vasilevskiy will get the nod for the Atlantic in net. He deserves his spot with a solid 2.50 GAA and 0.925 save percentage. Following Vasilevskiy is Jimmy Howard, who has played better than his 2.76 GAA has indicated. Put him on a good team and he’s probably looking at a 2.60ish GAA. Vasilevskiy will join teammates Steven Stamkos and Nikiti Kucherov. Stamkos and Kucherov on the ice at the same time is going to be lethal. Auston Matthews and John Tavares, albeit both centremen, are on the same team together.
The 3-on-3 hockey is going to resemble overtime on steroids. Overtime is already a rapid pace, but take away full effort from the defences in an All-Star Game, and you’re going to see fast break hockey continually. NBA on ice is pretty accurate. The goaltending tandem of Vasilevskiy and Howard tops the combo of Holtby and Lundqvist.
Further, putting Stamkos and Kucherov together on the ice in this exhibition doesn’t seem fair. Don’t discount the impact guys like Thomas Chabot and Jack Eichel could have on this game as well. This is a recreational bet that shouldn’t be seen as anything more. With that said, if you’re looking for an NHL All-Star Game pick, I’d side with the Atlantic Division in Game 2.