The NHL All-Star Game was this weekend. It was supposed to feature the best players in the world, but with Sidney Crosby not voted in due to a lack of first-half games, Alexander Ovechkin opting to be suspended for a game rather than go to St. Louis and players like Auston Matthews and Artemi Panarin not playing due to injury, the game featured most of the world’s best players, and some of the world’s not-exactly-best players like Chris Kreider, Travis Konecny, Tyler Bertuzzi, Anthony Duclair and some questionable decisions in net.
It’s been a while since I selected a different kind of All-Star team in the All-Animosity Team. Gone are the days when Milan Lucic, Matt Cooke, Chris Kunitz and Martin Brodeur were fixtures on the team. There are a few familiar faces from years past, but for the most part, there has been quite the turnover on the team.
We came dangerously close to Panarin and Barzal playing together for the foreseeable future. If not for Panarin taking less money (about $1 million per year less) to be a Ranger instead of an Islander, Rangers fans would have had to deal with those two flying around together for years to come. It gives me chills just thinking about it. Thankfully, it’s not going to happen. When Barzal is on the ice, I’m scared. I’m not scared at the level of Crosby, Ovechkin or Nathan MacKinnon or Connor McDavid, but I’m still scared. He’s the one true playmaker on the Islanders and against the current state of the Rangers defense, he’s not someone I enjoy entering the offensive zone with the puck. Every time he does his patented circling of the zone with possession it feels like it will only end badly, and unfortunately, he’s not going anywhere in terms of the rivalry.
Marchand is the ultimate player who you hate to watch your team play against, but would love if he were on your team. He’s dirty and annoying, he’s a pest and nuisance, but he’s really good. He makes up one-third of the Bruins’ “Perfection Line” and the Bruins go as that line goes, and after a trip to the Stanley Cup Final and a current first-place standing in the Atlantic, that line has been going for a while now. Marchand might have been on this team solely for what he does with the puck because he’s that talented, but it’s what he does without the puck that solidified his roster spot. His lapses in judgment and total disregard for player safety whether it’s unnecessary hits to the head or irresponsible slew foots have made him universally disliked in the entire hockey world outside of Boston. I don’t envision a scenario where Marchand is in the league and isn’t on this team.
Ovechkin has 33 goals in 58 regular-season games against the Rangers and another 13 goals in 33 playoff games across five postseason series with four of those series going seven games. He’s the ultimate “When is his shift going to end?” and “Get the puck out of the zone” player there is and when he’s waiting at the top of the circles on the power play, two minutes feels like 20 minutes. I keep waiting for him to slow down, thinking age or games played might start to catch up to him, but in his age 34 season he’s on a 57-goal pace over 82 games. I do respect that I’m watching greatness and a generational talent and arguably the best goal scorer in the history of the game when it comes to him, that just doesn’t take away how I feel when he’s playing the Rangers.
It’s weird to think the Bruins will retire Chara’s number one day considering the team they were when they signed him and the team they eventually became. When Chara arrived in Boston, It felt like it would be at least another three decades until the Bruins won again, but after winning the Cup and reaching the Final two other times in a nine-year period, Chara has been a staple of the Bruins and an exemplary captain of the team for nearly 15 years (though I have always felt as though Patrice Bergeron deserved to wear the “C” all these years). Chara isn’t close to being the player he once was and appears to be a liability on the ice more times than not, but he’s not once again on this team for the player he is, but the player he was.
To be honest, I don’t dislike Greene. In fact, I don’t have any positive or negative feelings about him. But this roster needs a representative from the Devils, and who better to fill that role than their captain? The Devils are a mess. After winning the lottery for the second time in three years, acquiring P.K. Subban and signing Wayne Simmonds, the Devils looked at worst to be a bubble team for the postseason. The only thing they’re on the bubble for now is winning the lottery again as they are currently tied for the second-fewest points in the league. In a season in which there was so much promise in New Jersey, the team has received awful goaltending and a lack of scoring, fired its head coach and eventually fired its general manager, but only after allowing the general manager to trade away Taylor Hall in what was the team’s most important decision of the near future. The Devils have the pieces in place to rebound next season, let’s hope that’s not the case as this version of them has been more fun to watch.
For years I only had to worry about picking the forwards and defensemen for this team because I knew Brodeur would be the goalie. Holtby is in no way as easy of a choice for this spot as Brodeur was, but he has still earned it. Normally, I dislike a player because of their performance against one of my teams, but Holtby has only won 13 of 25 regular-season games against the Rangers and has lost all three postseason series to them, including three Game 7s. The reason I have never liked him is mostly not his fault. It’s not his fault he has been perceived in past seasons to be better than Henrik Lundqvist despite having a much, much better team in front of him, and it’s not his fault that his much, much better team helped him win the Stanley Cup, while Lundqvist’s prime was wasted with a disastrous defense and poor roster construction and he will most likely retire having never won the Cup. What is Holtby’s fault is the way he tends to give up bad goals when I wager on the Capitals. If Ben Bishop were still in the Eastern Conference and still posting unfathomable numbers against the Rangers, this job would have been his. Now it’s Holtby’s job to lose.