Reid at the Rink: 11/10

In today’s Twitteriffic sports age, certain spectacles, like All Star Games, for instance, tend to lose some of their luster.

What was once a backstage pass into the less serious, more fun side of our favorite sports has now been overshadowed by athletes tweeting insults and posting self-conducted interviews on their Facebook pages. Certainly that’s not the only reason why we don’t love these exhibitions like we used to, though. Let’s face it: these games are just kind of boring.

Luckily for us, the NHL doesn’t always sit on its laurels, and seems poised to make a change to this year’s format that should be a nice jump start to the annual affair, all thanks to a former Red Wing who now acts on behalf of the NHL.

Brendan Shanahan, you may remember, was once one of hockey’s most prolific power forwards. The winger scored over 1300 points in his illustrious career, winning three Stanley Cups with Detroit in the process.

Shanahan now spends his days working for the NHL as Vice President of Hockey and Business Development. One of his duties? Suggesting an overhaul to the All Star Game format, as first reported by the Canadian Press. The details, as reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger:

If the changes are approved, the East vs. West format would no longer exist.

Fan voting would still be utilized to determine the game’s starters, while the remaining 36 players will be selected by NHL’s hockey operations department.

The captains of each team will be voted on by the participating players, and those captains and alternate captains will draft their teams as part of a live event in Raleigh during All Star weekend.

Some will say the proposed changes don’t amount to a hill of Sean Avery’s discarded shoes. To those naysayers, I ask: would you rather watch the same old East vs. West matchups, or the following:

  • Nicklas Lidstrom trying to defend Pavel Datsyuk coming down the ice in a 1-on-1 situation.
  • Zdeno Chara blasting slapshots at Tim Thomas.
  • Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane playing keep away from the defense for minutes on end.
  • Henrik Sedin feeding passes to Alexander Ovechkin while Daniel Sedin tries to defend them.
  • Crosby and Evgeni Malkin colliding at center ice and hearing the collective pause of the entire city of Pittsburgh’s breath?

These are all definite possibilities if the NHLPA approves the changes (and all indications are they will within the coming days). The All Star Game was not missed by anyone last year, as the Olympics took center stage and provided hockey fans the world over with world class play for two weeks. With three years until the next Olympic Games, it’s nice to see the NHL doing something to make their annual All Star festivities a little more interesting.

Jeff Skinner off to Hot Start in Carolina

The Carolina center, who was the seventh overall pick in this past summer’s “Taylor vs. Tyler” headlined draft, is off to a hot start tallying 15 points in his first 15 games.

Still, most people in the hockey community weren’t giving the kid much in the way of props until the past week or so, and prior to that, Skinner still wasn’t getting much respect either, as evidenced by the Central Scouting Bureau ranking him 47th among North American skaters pre-draft. Obviously, Skinner fancies himself a Rodney Dangerfield on ice, and is out to prove the skeptics wrong. So far, so good.

With that, it’s time to take a quick look at some other high-flying rookies thus far on the 2010-2011 NHL campaign:

Jordan Eberle, RW, EDM

Although he’s not even the most hyped rookie on his own team (he has Taylor Hall to thank for that), Eberle is nonetheless no stranger to expectations, as the Canadian born winger has shined on the international stage for Canada over the last several years. With eight points in 15 games, Eberle sits in a tie for distant second behind Skinner in rookie scoring, but may have secured the NHL’s Best Goal award with his first ever tally in his first career game. The marker even prompted a less than stellar response from the veterans on his own club as seen in this clip:

John Carlson, D, WSH:

Carlson hails from Natick, just up the road from my hometown. Being an avid fan of anyone born within the state limits of Massachusetts, it’s only natural for me to be a fan of the young defenseman’s play. Still, with eight points in 15 games from the blueline of one of the NHL’s best teams, Carlson should put himself in the running for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie come season’s end, as long as Skinner hasn’t already run away with it.

Sergei Bobrovsky, G, PHI

How’s this for a netminder’s stat line: 8-2-1, 2.19 goals against, .926 save percentage. Pretty impressive, and Vezina-worthy for a full year’s campaign. Now, let’s take into account the owner of those numbers in Bobrovsky, a Russian backstop who went undrafted in 2006 and signed a free agent contract with the Flyers this past May. Most believe it was his nationality, not talent, that was the cause of his falling through the cracks, but nevertheless, what Bobrovsky is doing is uber-impressive, and if keeps it up, the Flyers may have finally found their long-term answer between the pipes.

The Fab Five

1. St. Louis Blues (9-1-2) (LW: 2)

These guys are for real.

Winners of seven straight, the Blues are the undisputed No. 1 team in the NHL right now. On a semi-related note: TJ Oshie is a brick house. I watched the Blues take on my Bruins this past Saturday, and saw the 5’11, 170 lb Oshie not only concuss David Krejci with a clean shoulder to shoulder hit, he even knocked 6’9 Zdeno Chara off his skates in a puck battle. If he’s not on Team USA in 2014, there’s a problem.

2. Washington Capitals (11-4-0) (LW: 5)

The Capitals lead the NHL in goal differential at +15, and their 52 goals tops the league as well. Alex Ovechkin sits second in league in scoring with 20 points, and his 72 shots are tops in the NHL. The Caps offense is firing on all cylinders, and they look well on their way to another playoff berth in 2011.

3. Los Angeles Kings (10-3-0) (LW: 3)

Jonathan Quick has emerged as one of the game’s top young goaltenders, and he’s done it without much fanfare at all. Quick is currently 8-1-0 with a 1.64 GAA and a .942 save percentage, and is certainly in the conversation for early Vezina contenders.

4. Philadelphia Flyers (9-4-1) (LW: NR)

The Flyers are 7-2-1 in their last 10, and the aforementioned Bobrovsky has been vital to their early season success. Last season’s Eastern Conference champs have the horses to make a deep run again this year, and Claude Giroux’s emergence as a bonafide offensive threat only bolsters an already powerful offense.

5. Boston Bruins (7-3-1) (LW: 1)

Not the best of week’s for the B’s, as their 1-1-1 record would attest. They wiped the floor with Buffalo last Wednesday, only to fall to the Capitals and Blues on back to back nights. They looked flat against Washington, but Saturday’s tilt against St. Louis was as entertaining as a hockey game can be. With five games in their next eight days, things should get interesting for the B’s, who will be without David Krejci for the next week or so.

Studs & Duds

The best and worst of the week from around the NHL.

Stud – Jaroslav Halak, G, STL

The Slovakian netminder was once considered Carey Price’s long term backup in Montreal. After stealing the starting job from Price in Montreal last year (and leading Montreal to the Eastern Conference Finals while he was at it), the Canadiens brain trust puzzlingly shipped Halak out and handed the starting job over to Price once again.

While Price hasn’t looked out of place in Montreal, Halak has shined for the best team in the NHL, and was at his best this past week, allowing just one goal on 59 shots in posting back to back wins over San Jose and Boston, two of the NHL’s premier teams over the past few seasons.

Dud – John Tavares, C, NYI -

Tavares, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 Draft, oozes with talent. He’s as natural a goal scorer as you’ll find in the NHL, and his future is very bright. Still, the past week wasn’t very kind to the Canadian center, as he notched just one assist in three games while posting a -5 rating for the week. Tavares’ -13 for the year puts him dead last in the plus/minus category and the slumping Islanders won’tbe righting the ship with Tavares struggling.

Parting Shots

Random news and notes, pop culture tidbits, and videos from around the league.

Saying Derek Boogaard is known more for his fists than for his flair is like saying Lady Gaga has questionable fashion sense. The Boogeyman hadn’t scored a goal in 234 consecutive games. That Herculean streak was broken last night however, as the hulking winger broke his drought at Madison Square Garden. Take a look:

Enjoy your week, puck heads.

Reid at the Rink is a weekly hockey column that’s published every Wednesday. You can follow Reid on Twitter @reidjjackson.

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