LCS Hockey: Born Again
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June 27, 2019
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Kovalev Shines




Alexei Kovalev
photo by Matthieu Masquelet

The East beat the West 12-11 in a shootout. Yippee. Bad hockey is still bad hockey. That was painful to watch. Simply dreadful.

I understand no one wants to block shots or finish checks, but would it bust their ass to try? Just because it’s an exhibition doesn’t mean you have to force passes and refuse to backcheck. Stupid is as stupid does, and that was stupid hockey at its finest.

Even when the game was up for grabs late in the third, the intensity remained awful. It wasn’t until the final minute of regulation when things started to get cranked up. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier had a strong shift in that closing minute, and the momentum carried over into the four-on-four overtime. But it was far too little too late. Have some pride, people.

At least Alexei Kovalev put on a show.


BEST GOALS

1. Alexei Kovalev, East: Kovalev scored twice in regulation and once in the shootout, and they were all real wizard. But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be his first one. Kovy busted in alone on J.S. Giguere and muscled up for his laser rocket wrister only to slip an off-speed shot past Giggy’s glove. It was cruel. Johan Santana couldn’t have done it any better.

Between periods, an interviewer asked Kovalev if he meant to do it. Gee, you think? Kovy told the intrepid reporter to ask Carey Price, because the kid’s been getting abused with it in practice for two months.

“I've been doing this for a while, so I was pretty confident what I'm going to do, and it's going to work,” said Kovalev. “The only thing is like most of the guys ask me afterwards, if I'd ever done it during the game. And I'm just looking for a good moment to do that.”


2. Alexei Kovalev, East: Kovalev’s shootout tally was ridiculous, and it was Exhibit A on why Giguere bit so hard on the changeup. Hardest. Shot. Ever.

“There's no way I'm going to miss that one,” said Kovalev.


3. Evgeni Malkin, East: Geno the Scoring Machine-o swiped the puck in the West zone and waltzed towards the cage, freezing Niklas Backstrom before going all Marek Malik on him and snapping home a between-the-legs shot for the goal. Swank.


4. Andrei Markov, East: Markov was the beneficiary of some sweet tic-tac-toe action. Dany Heatley started the play in the right corner, chipping the puck to Marc Savard along the back wall. Savard one-touched it to Alexander Ovechkin at the bottom of the right circle, and Ovie whipped it across to Markov for the easy tap at the left post.


5. Rick Nash, West: It’s always swell watching Nash in full flight. He swiped a puck from Zdeno Chara at the West stripe and powered past the Bruin behemoth, finishing the breakaway with a clean backhand roof shot. Seriously, Columbus needs to take one for the team and trade Nash to Pittsburgh. With Kid Crosby as his center, Nash would score 60.


BEST SAVES

1. Tim Thomas, East: Thomas stoned Jarome Iginla with less than two minutes to go in overtime to keep the East alive. Joe Thornton sent Iginla away on a potential break. Instead of challenging Mark Streit, who was racing back stride-for-stride, Iggy dropped the puck to Thornton and peeled into the left circle. Thornton set him up for the perfect one-timer from the goal line, but Thomas stretched across with the right pad to slam the door. Timmy!

Kovalev got the MVP, and rightfully so, but Timmy would have been a solid second choice. He stopped 19 of 22 during the game and stuffed both shootout attempts.


2. Henrik Lundqvist, East: It looked like Patrick Kane’s scoring woes were gonna keep on truckin’. Late in the second, Jonathan Toews drove the left wing and fired a shot on Lundqvist, who stumbled off his angle in making the save. Toews gobbled the rebound and wheeled behind the net, slipping a perfect pass out front to Kane alone on the doorstep. Lundqvist scrambled back and stacked the pads, waving his glove to humble Citizen Kane. What would I like to have been? Everything you hate.


3. Roberto Luongo, West: Not long after butchering a potential two-on-one, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis combined with about 27 seconds left in regulation to test Luongo. Vinny chipped a puck through to Mighty Mouse in the left circle, but Louie was in perfect butterfly position to make the save. Yeah, there really weren’t many great saves. I had to dig deep.


OTHER STUFF

* Malkin was fun to watch. He treated each shift like his own personal best trick competition. Aside from the highlight goal on Backstrom, Geno dangled around countless defenders, slid a twirling between-the-legs shot on Giguere, attempted two flip passes over the net, pulled off a spin-o-rama, and juggled the puck around Scott Niedermayer, tapping the biscuit three times in the air to evade the Norris Trophy winner in the right wing corner.

* The Montreal crowd welcomed Sheldon Souray back with open arms, and he wasn’t shy about showing them what they’ve been missing. He buried two goals with bullet snap shots. Lecavalier, the other out-of-towner to receive raucous ovations, didn’t exactly dominate. He failed to register a point, although he did lead all skaters with a plus-4.

* Tomas Kaberle had two assists, but he finished minus-3 and was the only skater on the East squad to not register a shot on goal. Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, and Mike Modano went shotless for the West.

* The official scorer credited the Eastern squad with 11 giveaways, while the West got pegged for only three. I counted that many on the first shift.

* Keith Tkachuk got credited with the game’s only hit. It apparently happened at 14:11 of the second. Kovalev was the victim. Yeah, I don’t remember it either.

* Milan Hejduk deserves recognition. He actually backchecked and gave a damn, busting up more than a few offensive rushes. You’re my boy, Milan.

* The West wore fancy white gloves. And by fancy I mean gay. The sweaters weren’t a complete travesty. The one white sleeve, one colored sleeve thing was different. I thought the three stars down the arm were nice. But what gives with the logos?

The West logo had the word WEST followed by a bunch of stars, meaning the stars were on the east side of the logo. The East, on the other hand, featured stars on the left, or western side, and then the word EAST. Why are they messing with our heads? Geography test scores aren’t low enough across American public schools? Jerks.

* Look on the bright side. Next year around this time, we’ll be watching Olympic hockey instead. Aw, that’ll be great, that’ll be fun.

* Finally, winning the MVP was a big deal for Kovalev. He wanted it, and he took it.

“You can't ask for a better package than this,” said Kovalev. “Get voted in the All-Star Game by the fans, starting lineup, being the captain, get MVP. This is something you're going to remember the rest of your life.”

Kovalev intends to auction the MVP car for charity, but he hasn’t picked which one yet.

”It could be a charity that I've been working with, my charity, Alex Kovalev Foundation, or the Russian Gift of Life or other charities,” said Kovalev. “It doesn't matter. I mean it's all for the kids.”

That’s right, Kovy. It’s all about the kids.





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