On the day following the YoungStars Game, which pitted NHL rookies versus sophomores, a trio of sophomores took part in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who also played in the YoungStars Game, along with Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, all had their first opportunity to play with the top NHL talent in the mid-season classic.
The game, an entertaining 12-11 shootout victory for the Eastern Conference, was played before a packed house at the Bell Centre in Montreal. A mostly hometown crowd that was there strictly for the entertainment value of this event went home delighted with the outcome, as Montreal Canadiens star Alexei Kovalev was named the game’s MVP. Kovalev earned his award on the strength of a two-goal, one-assist regulation performance, along with the deciding goal in the Eastern Conference’s shootout win.
For Kovalev’s Canadiens teammate Carey Price, his one period of action had to be considered a success. Price gave up two goals on 11 Western Conference shots, with many of those scoring chances coming at close range. The starting goaltender for the Eastern Conference made several good stops, including a doorstep stop on Jarome Iginla and a nice save on a tip by Shane Doan.
Given their relative inexperience, the Blackhawks tandem of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane had to consider their All-Star experience a success. The two were on a line with Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf for the majority of the game, an experience that Toews seemed to appreciate.
"He’s a heckuva player, obviously", said Toews of his bruising linemate, "He’s fun to watch, but not fun to play against, so it’s better to have him on your own side."
The young linemates struggled in the first period, but meshed better as the game progressed. Kane had the first great scoring opportunity for that line, but was robbed by Eastern Conference goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in the second period.
"Yeah, that was a great save", Kane agreed. "I caught the puck in close, but I didn’t lift it as high as I wanted to. But it was an unbelievable save how he came across like that."
Toews eventually broke the scoreless evening for that line, netting one from the right circle after taking a pass from Kane.
It looked as though Kane may not get the opportunity to match Toews in the goal department. But late in the third period, the young sniper took a breakout pass from Getzlaf to skate in alone on Western Goaltender Roberto Luongo, beating Luongo stick side after faking him to the ice. Kane was appreciative of his first All-Star goal.
"It was nice to put one in", said the former OHL star. "Especially when there is 22 goals in a game, you don’t want to be the guy that comes out with no goals."
Following the game, Toews echoed the general feeling of most of those that took part in this event.
"It’s just incredible for everybody, I think", said Toews. "Everybody kind of thinks about winning the truck or the car. But there was a lot of skill out there, so it was fun to go out there and show what I can do and contribute a little bit. Since I’m the young guy here, I was trying to prove that I belong and I can hang with the big boys. I think I did that, and I had a lot of fun doing it."
Kane stressed the fun aspect of competing in this event, as well, but he was also mindful of some of the talent he rubbed elbows with in the dressing room.
"You come here, and you really don’t know what to expect", Kane said. "I came as a YoungStar last year, but we weren’t really around much – I think we practiced once, and had the little game. But you come in and you see all these guys in the room – Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, guys like that – it really sticks out in your mind just to watch how they act, and how they carry themselves. The guys like that I watched this weekend and last year. But it’s just fun overall, I guess that’s the big thing."
When asked what one thing he would take away from his experience in Montreal, it was something more than the opportunity to play with the league’s superstars that made a strong impression with Kane.
"There’s a huge poster of me on the side of the Sheraton Hotel", said Kane. "I don’t know what the dimensions are, but it’s really big. But just riding by there one day in a cab, it really makes you think of how hard you’ve worked and the things you’ve done to get to this point. Your first All-Star Game, in Montreal, you can’t really ask for a better situation."