Analyzing Kane and Crawford
These are very interesting All-Star rosters, in my opinion. For some good reasons and some bad. Before I offer a few thoughts on all four rosters as a whole, let me offer my thoughts on the Blackhawks’ league-leading four picks.
Patrick Kane is always going to be at the All-Star Game now. At least until he’s, like, Jaromir Jagr‘s age (if he plays that long). Kane is tied for second in the league with 44 points despite a drop in goals. His 12 are the fewest among the top 16 point producers this season.
But Kane has the quick hands and all those fancy moves fans love to “ooh” and “ahh” over, and Kane’s having another solid offensive season, so it makes plenty of sense to get him on the roster.
Crawford was another easy inclusion, despite what a small-but-vocal portion of the fan base might believe about him. Crow was far better than last season’s two Central Division goaltenders, Dubnyk and Pekka Rinne, and he missed the game. This season, Crow is easily a top-two goaltender in the Central, so thankfully he made the cut.
Crow may not have the most wins or league-leading stats, but his numbers are really impressive this season behind a Chicago team that hasn’t shown much desire to posses the puck consistently. He has 15 wins, a .925 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against average to go with two shutouts while facing an average of 30.8 shots per game.
Not to mention he carried the team through the first month-plus in the season, when he was stopping everything in sight at 5-on-5. And would you look at that, the early-season points binge still has the Blackhawks atop the Central. Huh.
Analyzing Keith and Toews
Now, on to Keith and Toews. We’ll start with the defenseman, who is another of the league’s more noticeable players due to winning the Stanley Cup three times. Keith’s 29 points are good for fourth in the league among defensemen, and that’s while posting a whopping one goal.
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But does Keith seem a step slow to you all this season? He’s still pulled off some of his typical iron-man acts, but he’s losing a few more board battles and getting beat position-wise a few more times this season than we’re used to. Dare I say Niklas Hjalmarsson has been better for stretches (he’ll never get into an All-Star Game, though).
He’s coming off knee surgery, so maybe he’s conserving his energy like only he knows he can do. So maybe this wasn’t the best season to push him into the All-Star Game? Could’ve let Roman Josi go. Or Kevin Shattenkirk.
Toews … interesting case here. The captain sounded very apologetic today when he learned he’d be in the All-Star over the likes of teammates Artemi Panarin, Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov (we’ll get to them in a bit).
I think Toews is well aware how he snuck in to the All-Star Game. This guy is the league’s top captain, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and a face of the entire league. If he wasn’t at the league’s showcase exhibition during what should be one of the peak seasons of his career, it’d be insane.
Heck, the guy’s face is on the banner for the All-Star Game webpage.
But if you look at the stats, Toews is absolutely right that he shouldn’t be in L.A. based on his stats for this season. While he’s missed time due to injury, he’s also been really sluggish offensively until these last couple weeks.
Da Windy City
You have to go to the fourth page of NHL.com’s stats sheet to find Toews’ name, sitting in the 162 spot with 20 points. His faceoff winning percentage is stellar (58.3) and his intangibles and defensive play at forward are important as always. But those aren’t necessarily the things that make an All-Star.
Being a face of the league, however, will get you there. This is a shining example of the All-Star Game’s use as a popularity contest. That’s just how it is.
Analyzing Panarin, Hossa and Anisimov
Panarin actually isn’t the only top-10 points producer in the league who is missing the All-Star Game (Columbus’ Cam Atkinson was also left out), but his omission is grievous nontheless. Panarin has been carrying this team offensively through stretches of the season, as Kane did last season.
Panarin’s 41 points are good for a share of sixth in the league, and his plus-16 rating is best among the league’s top-10 point producers. Panarin is a fun guy to watch play because he clearly has fun on the ice. Having him not in the game is a detriment to the league.
Hossa is probably glad he wasn’t included in the game, as it gives a player in his late 30s a little extra rest time. While Hossa got off to a stellar start this season, he’s kind of fallen back in the NHL pack in key stats. But you can’t deny his 16 goals, including four game-winners, are impressive.
Anisimov has really come into his own this season while playing between two stellar wings. His 31 points tie him for 38th in the league — one behind All-Star Simmonds from Philly — and he’s well on his way to a career year. Still, Anisimov isn’t as flashy as many other centers, so it’s not surprising he was left out.
Overall, I’d say Panarin is by far the biggest snub for the Blackhawks, and maybe the biggest in the league.