It's that time of the year again. You can't make it through a commercial break without running into at least one political advertisement informing you of the atrocities the other candidate has committed. You'd think that voting to raise taxes was akin to infanticide. But while local elections are important and all, that also means that the NHL has released this seasons All-Star ballot.
Like me, your first ballot is probably gonna be stocked with home town players. Use that write-in vote sparingly, you've only got one per conference. But after we get that out of the way, let's sit back and see who, as we approach the quarter mark in the season, deserve to suit up in Altanta on January 27th at the NHL All-Star game.
Today we'll address the Eastern Conference.
Sidney Crosby - F - You can go ahead and set this spot in stone right now. He is the face of the league. He has scored in 18 straight games. He is a point behind the league leader. And all this while his team isn't exactly performing up to par. Without a doubt Sidney Crosby is the most dynamic player in the league, and has been since his introduction to the league only 2 seasons ago. Ted Williams once said they invented MLB All-Star game for Willie Mays. Well there are many talented players in the NHL right now, but the All-Star game was created for the select few like Crosby.
Ilya Kovalchuk - F - Thanks to the competition between the two for the rookie of the year trophy, everyone loves to hype up the rivalry between Crosby and Ovechkin. Which is why when it comes to putting together these dream lines everyone seems to gravitate towards pairing the two. But if I want a finisher out there accepting Crosby's passes, I look no further than Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk. Not only is he leading the league in scoring, with 15 goals through 18 games, but earlier this month he put up back to back hat tricks. And he's done so as his team is trying to overcome a rough start that saw head coach replaced by GM Don Waddell.
Vincent Lecavalier - F - And if the ballots being punched today (they punch ballots right?), then you absolutely can not overlook Vincent Lecavalier of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Not because he's leading the league in scoring, although presently he is, but because in the past 6 games he has 16 points. Normally he is a talented player, but right now the guy is on a tear that puts Paul Stastny or the Minnesota Wild to shame.
Sergei Gonchar - D - I may look like something of a homer selecting Sergei Gonchar, even with him leading defensemen in scoring. But I'm using my write-in vote for him. And actually I feel a little weird about it myself, because watching him day in and day out, I realize I really overlook how talented he is. Yes, I wake the neighbors screaming my disbelief into the heavens when he doesn't keep the puck in at the blue line or throws a pass through the middle of the neutral zone. But he can also carry the puck into through the neutral zone like a forward, and his shot is nothing short of deadly. His one draw may be his -4 plus/minus, but considering the Penguins team plus/minus sits at -10, and 13 of his 18 points came on the power play, it can be overlooked.
Chris Phillips - D - Perhaps it's the guilt from putting such a non-defensive oriented player in the first slot, but I'm going with Chris Phillips to round off the skaters. If you aren't a scoring defenseman, it's easy to be overlooked when it comes time for the all-star game, which is why I was pleasantly surprised to see Phillips on the ballot. The Senators lead the league when it comes to plus/minus, and Chris Phillips is a huge reason.
Henrik Lundqvist -G - Here's the spot that I'll admit it's basically a toss-up between Lundqvist and Philadelphia's Martin Biron. You could make an excellent agrument for Biron, but right now I'm leaning slightly towards Lundqvist. They both have amazing stats, but Henrik has been a constant wall in the Rangers crease. If you want to know who is responsible for the Rangers winning record, it's not Jagr, or Drury, or Gomez, it's Lundqvist. He has allowed more than 3 goals only once in 18 starts. That is how you get your team wins.
That's it for the Eastern Conference. Later the Western. But for now, head over and take a look at the advertisement, er... I mean the XM/NHL All-Star Game Ballot presented by 2K Sports (and I thought it was painful to say the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). Sure voting online isn't really that personal, you won't get a sticker, but you can vote like 50 times. Try pulling that in real life. Well, outside of Florida of course.