The National Hockey League invades the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville this Saturday for the 61st All-Star Game. This game will mark the first 3-on-3 format in NHL All-Star Game history.
The lead up into Saturday has been exactly the opposite of what the league would have hoped.
The biggest story up until recently was the format change in which four teams will take part in a 3-on-3 tournament and will play a semi-final to see who plays for the championship. Each game will be a 20-minute period in which the winners will play for the right to claim the $1 million grand prize.
That has been pushed aside and more bad publicity has fallen on the league in the terms of what the fans did in voting for John Scott, who has five career goals in 285 NHL games. He led the league in overall total votes and the league tried to get him to pass up this opportunity, but he will be there and the league will be made to look like a circus once again.
Let's take a look at John Scott's teammates as well as the rest of the three teams competing in this year's All-Star event.
The new format could be hit or miss, and players could find themselves in an awkward position come Sunday. Past All-Star Games have been slow and lethargic, and that was at 5-on-5. With fewer players on the ice and more open space, there is going to be a fine line between trying to hard and obviously mailing it in. The first game will set the tone for the following two, and unfortunately, I believe it is going to be the dullest of the three games.
Semi-Final No. 1
Atlantic +100 vs. Metropolitan -130
Since this format is a bit unknown, and finding a way to correctly handicap the outcome could prove difficult, I am going to put my prediction in the hands of the goalies in this game. With 3-on-3 there is a lot of open space, and I believe there will be plenty of breakaways. I think the talent on the Metropolitan team is far superior to the Atlantic, and it boasts two of the better goalies at stopping shootout attempts. Holtby and Schneider sit at .778 and .609 save percentage, respectively, compared to .588 and .545 for the duo of Luongo and Bishop. Jagr already clamored with NHL Voters to not vote him into the game, yet he was named captain. I cannot see a 43 year old with 21 years of NHL service giving it 110 percent against faster opponents with absolutely nothing to gain. The offense for the Atlantic squad just does not stand out to me as one that can put up plenty of goals.
Give me the Metropolitan team at a good price of -130.
Semi-Final No. 2
Central -130 vs. Pacific +110
The -130 price on the Central team is a little low, in my opinion. When you look at this team, you see human highlight reel after human highlight reel. Kane, Seguin and Benn are currently the top three players in NHL scoring this season. That is playing 5-on-5. What kind of highlights will we see from these gifted players when its 3-on-3 with all kinds of open space? I actually like the goaltending duo the Central possess as Rinne has been solid all year and Dubnyk is the only bright spot for Minnesota this year. Even the defense has the ability to put up points. For the Pacific, only Johnny Gaudreau and Joe Pavelski are worth talking about. I do not think they can singly-handedly win 40 minutes of hockey on their own to capture the $1 million grand prize.
Another factor in this game could be the teams' motivation. While the Central is made up of a majority of players in their 20s, the Pacific is an older squad with the exception of Hall and Gaudreau, who might wish they were somewhere in the Bahamas sipping on a pina colada
Give me the Central -130.
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