Reviewing the 2023 NHL All-Star Game
Sunrise, Florida hosted a very memorable and fun-filled NHL All-Star Game
I do love the NHL All-Star Game and its festivities. I've been watching this event since the mid-1990s, and if there's one thing I've learned the years, it's this: the NHL's All-Star Game went through so many changes. When this started in 1947, the format back then pitted the defending Stanley Cup Champions against a mixture of All-Stars from other teams. Then in 1969, it was the East Division vs the West Division, but six years later, the format changed to the Wales Conference vs the Campbell Conference. It became Eastern Conference vs Western Conference when the geographical names returned in the 1993-94, but a few years later, the NHL decided that for the All-Star Game, they would pit a team of North Americans (Canada and the U.S.) against The World (mostly European players), before going back to East vs West.
After having three games where team captains chose their rosters, the NHL decided that the All-Star Game would be division-centered. Beginning with the 2016 game, the format changed drastically. For one, instead of one three-period game, it would be three 20-minute minigames, with each one divided into halves. The event would be a four division tourmanent, pitting the Pacific vs the Central in one game, the Metropolitan vs the Atlantic in another, and a championship game between the two winners, with all games played under a three-on-three format. The winning division would take home $1 million--split between the players on the roster.
The event took place in Sunrise, Florida, making this the second time that the Florida Panthers hosted the event (they previously hosted in 2003). The West game (Pacific vs Central) started things off, and I couldn't help but go wild over seeing all three Colorado Avalanche players (Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar) on one line together. That line opened the scoring for the event; MacKinnon scored from Rantanen on the Central's first shot of the game, after Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck stopped five Pacific shots. However, Hellebuyck couldn't stop Connor McDavid from tying the game, and Elias Pettersson thought he gave the Pacific a 2-1 lead, but it was reviewed for offsides and disallowed (yes, that happened).
Speaking of Pettersson, he was on a line with Bo Horvat and Kevin Fiala, and for Horvat, this marked his last time on the same team with Pettersson. Horvat was traded to the New York Islanders a week before this game, but because he was with the Vancouver Canucks when he was selected as an All-Star, he was allowed to remain as a member of the Pacific team. After Seth Jones (CHI) gave the Central a 2-1 lead, Petterson and Horvat worked together to tie it up; the former scored with an assist from the latter. The Avalanche line made it 3-2 (MacKinnon from Rantanen and Makar), and that was the score at the halfway point. In the second half, the Arizona Coyotes' Clayton Keller scored 18 seconds in, and Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) made it 5-2, but the Pacific threatened with goals from Pettersson and Erik Karlsson. However, Keller scored the empty netter to seal it. The Central won, 6-4.
The East game (Metropolitan vs Atlantic) followed, with the Atlantic being the host division because of the Panthers hosting the game. It was a Panther who opened the scoring; Matthew Tkachuk scored in the first minute from Panthers teammate Aleksandar Barkov (who was replacing the injured Auston Matthews) and Matthew's younger brother, Brady Tkachuk (OTT). I couldn't help but love that brotherly bond has been a trend, with the Tkachuk brothers playing before the Kelce brothers take the stage in the Super Bowl.
The Metro/Atlantic game had a lot of scoring, and a number of moments where Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin broke away 2-on-0 and kept passing it until a goal was scored (Crosby both times). They had three points each; Johnny Gaudreau (CBJ) had a hat trick, but it would be the Atlantic who emerged victorious by a score of 10-6. Matthew Tkachuk had five points in that game; three goals and two assists. Brother Brady Tkachuk had four points of his own (G/3 A), Nick Suzuki (MTL) had two goals, Dylan Larkin (DET) had two goals and an assist, and Barkov and Mitch Marner (TOR) had three helpers each.
The final was between the Central and Atlantic, which was actually the matchup in three of the last four Cup Finals. Similar to the East game, the Tkachuk brothers opened up the scoring; Matthew from Brady in the frist minute. The Atlantic led 3-0 after the first half of that game, as Nikita Kucherov and Dylan Larkin added goals of their own, while Linus Ullmark (BOS) shut the door in the first half. Juuse Saros (NSH) did his best, he had 11 saves in his portion of the game, but the offensive support just wasn't there.
When Larkin scored in the second half to make it 4-0, it became out of reach for the Central. However, Mikko Rantanen scored on Andrei Vasilevskiy (bringing back fond memories of last year's Final) to end the Atlantic's shutout bid, but David Pastrnak gave the Atlantic their four goal lead back. Despite the game being out of reach, the Central did have an offensive flurry, adding four goals in the latter half of the 2nd half. The goals came from Jason Robertson (DAL), Keller, MacKinnon, and Makar, but even that was not enough, and the Atlantic won 7-5 to take this year's All-Star Game tournament.
Dylan Larkin had five total goals in the two games played, but the honor of All-Star Game MVP went to Matthew Tkachuk, who had seven total points (five of them in the game vs the Metropolitan Division). This was the first time that the Atlantic won the event, the Pacific and Metropolitan won the five previous events, while the Central still hasn't won. It was also the first time that the host division won, and speaking of that subject, the Atlantic will play host again next year. It was announced during ABC's coverage of this game that the 2024 event will take place in Toronto--the first time since 2000 that the city will host the NHL All-Star Game.
This was a spectacular event. I loved that the jerseys were Reverse Retro, as they featured the conference logos that were displayed back in the latter half of the 1990s and the early 2000s. I was very happy with the performance of the Avalanche players, it was awesome seeing the Tkachuk brothers on the same team, and the Pettersson/Horvat connection being shown for the last time was just amazing. I loved every minute of this year's All-Star Game, but I am now ready for the second half of this wild and crazy NHL season!
A great review!
Can't agree with on this my friend. I hate the division format and the 3 on the 3. I also hate that every team has to be represented. I'd rather see a regular between the best players in each conference. (Maybe I'm just old fashioned.) Regardless of all that, great review.
Terrific!!! Left a heart!!!
Great review!! I learned a lot! ☺️