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2019 NHL All Star Game Recap: Jones, Atkinson Lead Metro to Victory

Some highlights from my notes while watching tonight’s NHL All Star Game festivities:

The Stanford Band is on the ice for the player introductions. I love college marching bands, but they’re my least favorite. They’re not half as clever as they think they are, and they don’t stack up musically against, say, the top Big Ten bands.

For the Canadian anthem, they have a country singer who was a former Vancouver draft pick. Cool to have that hockey connection, and he sings it well.

The Star Spangled Banner singer, on the other hand, completely butchered it. She attempted so many vocal gymnastics that the melody was nearly unrecognizable. Unless you’re Marvin Gaye, don’t try to put your own twist on that song. Just sing it.

I am still not a fan of the black and white jerseys for this game, but a feature I do like is having the team logos on the front. In the past, players would wear the NHL crest on their chest and their team logo on the shoulders. It’s much better to have the team logos larger and prominently featured.

Another new feature this year is real time player tracking. NBC made it a big feature  of their broadcast. Not everything worked – the bugs labeling each player took up too much space during live game action – but the possibilities are endless. I’m also very excited to see what the hockey analytics community does with the additional available information.

It was a great decision to switch this event to the 3v3 tournament format. Players still aren’t giving 100%, but it’s less obvious than in the old format. Because of the open space there are more breakaways. The best players in the league are fast, creative, and elite passers and shooters. Those breakaways allow them to show off their skills (and the goalies’ skills as well when they make saves). Isn’t that the point of a game like this?

Any rule change for an all-star game should highlight what makes the players great. For the NFL’s Pro Bowl, for a counterexample, the rule changes make it bland and unwatchable. In the NBA, the lack of any defensive effort is too glaring. Both of those sports could benefit from a smaller, faster, all-star game. Why not a 7-on-7 football game for the Pro Bowl? Why not a 3-on-3 tournament for the NBA? Tell me you wouldn’t rather watch that.

The Central Division beat the Pacific Division 10-4 in the first game. It was never close, as the Central began by piling on against John Gibson. Gibson’s been great all season but this is not the event for him. As Dom Luszczyszyn wrote in his preview at The Athletic:

3-on-3 dud: Somehow, it’s the league’s best (arguably) goalie, John Gibson who’s given up 15 goals on 54 shots at 3-on-3. His .722 save percentage is the worst of the eight goalies invited and it’s not all that close either. Expand the field to the 61 goalies that have played 20 or more minutes of 3-on-3 hockey over the last three seasons and he’s still ranked dead last.

Now on the important stuff:

The Metro team got off to a good start, including Seth Jones making it 2-0 off of great passes from Cam Atkinson and Kyle Palmieri:

The broadcast made much of the fact that it was an All-American threesome. That’s pretty cool. The 2022 Olympics can’t get here soon enough.

Both Atkinson and Mathew Barzal wore #13. This is confusing! Even the great Doc Emrick lost track at one point, referring to a shot from “one of the thirteens.”

After the Atlantic tied it up, the Metro regained the lead thanks to a great sequence from our boys. Cam’s breakaway was stopped by Andrei Vasilevskiy, but Jones stepped in and stripped the puck away before it left the offensive zone. He then shot top shelf for the score:

Great comment from AKbax: “Seth and Cam aren’t used to 3 on 3 lasting so long.”

Cam iced the game for Team Metro with an emphatic empty-netter:

It was on to the final versus the Central Division. The Jackets didn’t contribute as much in the first half, as the Crosby-Letang-Barzal line took over.

Jones got wiped out by Patrick Kane and slid into the goalpost.  It could have been an ugly injury (and just our luck, right?) but he was OK. His penalty shot attempt was…uh…not good. But no sweat:

Palmieri scored to put the Metro up 4-0, but it was all Jones:

Cam helped ice things in the second half, starting with this unassisted goal:

Plus a second empty-netter in as many games:

The Metropolitan Division are your champions, the second time they’ve won the event in this format. The last time? Two years ago in LA when Jones and Atkinson were on the team (along with Sergei Bobrovsky).

Congratulations to both Jackets for representing Columbus well:

The entire Blue Jackets roster returns to practice tomorrow before returning to game action on Tuesday.