Montreal, Kovalev Produce A Modern Day All Star Classic


The All Star Game, and the word "classic" in the same sentence, you wonder?

It hardly seems as though both terms go hand in hand, right?

I'll admit from the outset that I've never been a great fan of the All Star Game format, but I usually tune in for the skills competition, and watch part of the games, if not the entirety if a particular one holds my attention long enough. I've long ago resolved that these games are what they are, and that you have to take them for whatever thrills they offer.

The format of All Star Games have been maligned and criticized for years, decidedly because they fail to showcase what the true game is all about. As they are absent of defense, checking, hitting, and the rough stuff we love about the game, the game is a watered down rendition of what hockey truly is.

I've often thought about what it would be like if the All Star Game mirrored an actual NHL contest, with the usual bodychecks tossed about and head hunting with high sticks and elbows bringing out the players best competitive nature. It would in fact be a sad sight, would it not, to see players of this calibre go all out to win nothing more than a loaded SUV?

The All Star Game is what it is by neccesity, and that is enough for me understand and enjoy what it has to offer.


Having the game in Montreal does heighten the excitement quotient a good bit, and the script of this year's game looked to have several potential plot twists just waiting to evolve. At the final curtain, this game delivered on all promises.

Apart from having four Montreal Canadiens players take part on hometown turf, the subplots featured a Habs coach behind the bench as an assistant to the bench boss he replaced. Then there's the matter of a hometown hero returning amidst circulating rumours that there was a potential trade just weeks ago that would have sent him back home. Add in that three former Canadiens were in the game, including two who recently left as free agents, and let the soap opera play out. In script terms, this is what is referred to as "meat"!


As All Star Game's usually are, this one was a wild high scoring affair with the East pulling ahead before the West evened the mark early in the third frame. The building suspense was two - fold. Who'll win the game, and who will get the wheels and game MVP?

By the middle period, which saw close to 40 shots directed at both goalies, it became obvious that the Canadiens Alex Kovalev was gunning for MVP honours. He even said as much between periods. Moving into the third, he was in the running with a goal and an assist, but a few other worthy candidates had emerged.


Tampa's Martin St. Louis, a last minute sub for Sidney Crosby, was playing as though the Lightning's playoff hopes lie in the balance, Former Hab Sheldon Souray had netted a pair. Alex Ovechkin was spectacular on almost every shift, and had set up a goal and netted a beauty himself.

As the third period played out and the West moved ahead by a goal, there was a sense of drama rarely displayed in a All Star Game as the minutes wound down. After Kovalev added a second goal, and added to the suspense as it looked like the game was headed for extra minutes.

Playing 4 on 4 in overtime, Kovalev rang the potential game winner of the post, while behind him, the Bruins Tim Thomas made some spectacular saves, he himself in the running for game MVP.

With the 5 minute extra frame producing no winner, the contest headed for a shootout. Just as the final minutes of regulation time and the overtime had brought a buzz to the Bell Centre, the shootout did much the same, as anticipation of Kovalev's participation built.


After two failed attempts to score passed, Kovalev was announced as the next shooter, and he did not disappoint. He skated in swiftly on the West's Roberto Luongo, and fired a razor up high to put the East up by one.

One Thomas save and an Ovechkin goal later, and this classic was in the books. All that remained was to crown the game MVP.


With 2 goals and an assist to go along with the shootout winner, East captain Kovalev was an obvious choice to delight the hometown fans. It was a jubiliant moment, and Kovalev quickly explained that he had put much pressure on himself to win the award. He admitted that he would be selling the Honda 4 x 4 he'd just won, with the proceeds going to benefit his charity for children with heart troubles.

Immediately I thought, what a fitting way to cap an All Star Game in Montreal, where it's greatest stars - Beliveau, Bouchard, Roy, Koivu, to name just some - had always given back to the public in the most charitable of ways.

Good on Alex for wanting it so bad, and going out and getting it done!


The other Canadiens participants in this game also had good moments. Andrei Markov is now two for two, with goals in both All Star Games he has taken part in. Carey Price, after giving up nine goals in the glorified shinny game that was the rookies versus sophomores Young Stars match, gave up only two goals in the game that mattered - less than either of the six stoppers who took part. Mike Komisarek looked to be having the time of his life out there, cruising up the wing for a couple of scoring chances. He got his name in the books late in the game, by being awarded the first penalty - for hooking - in an All Star Game since 2000. Komisarek is also the first Canadiens player to get called since Patrick Roy was nabbed for delay of game in the 1990 contest.

The uniqueness of having the the All Star events in Montreal was not lost on the players involved. All weekend long, they not only got to mingle amongst themselves, but also with Canadiens legends who took in the off ice activities of the day.


The game itself had more than just the spectacle on the ice as entertainment. Habs legends such as Yvan Cournoyer, Dickie Moore, Serge Savard and Henri Richard were presented to the crowd as various intervals during the game. The pre game show was also something to see, as a Cirque de Soleil type production unfurled from the rafters of the Bell just prior to player introductions.


All in all, the weekend surely has to be termed a rousing success. While the game itself proved to be a modern day All Star classic, the entire three days festivities might be a hard act to follow next time around.

For an encapsulation of the history of the All Star Game and some of it's great moments, check out Kevin van Steendelaar's writeup at Bleacher Report.

Also, be sure to check out From The Rink's James Mirtle's reports from Montreal over the weekend. He has one piece on why Mike Komisarek allowed some guy named Ovenchicken to take his number 8 away, and another good one on why the All Star Game and all its festivities matter in Montreal. I could have saved him the trouble of finding out that last bit, as Montreal is just like Toronto, only with more Cups! James could have shared a press pass with me, but there was this really hot chick he met in Brockville along the way.....

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