The competition should be fierce at this year’s midseason spectacular in Los Angeles, with the winning 11-man roster taking home a cool $1 million – or nearly $91,000 per player. The 3-on-3 format will be a nightmare for each of the starting goalies, but should keep fans suitably entertained and the goal lights a-blazing. Each game is 20 minutes in length, with the teams switching ends at the 10-minute mark; if the game is tied at the end of regulation, a shootout will be held to determine the winner. No shootout was required at last year’s final, with Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry scoring the only goal of the championship game.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBC, NBC, NBC Live Extra
FIRST ROUND GAMES (odds via Sports Interaction):
Central Division -105
Pacific Division -115
Atlantic Division +105
Metropolitan Division -130
ABOUT THE METROPOLITAN DIVISION: It’ll be hard to see any other team as the favorite, with the Metropolitan Division not only boasting four of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference, but two future Hall of Famers in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin leading the charge. Crosby and Ovechkin have plenty of help, as well, as they’re joined by forwards Cam Atkinson, Taylor Hall, John Tavares and Wayne Simmonds. The defense corps of Justin Faulk, Seth Jones and Ryan McDonagh might be the team’s only weakness, but is skilled at moving the puck and should assert itself well. The goaltending tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby is as good as it gets.
ABOUT THE ATLANTIC DIVISION: Fresh faces litter the Atlantic roster – none fresher than Toronto Maple Leafs phenom Auston Matthews, who should draw plenty of attention in this one. He’ll be joined up front by Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand, Vincent Trocheck, Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo – not the strongest group of forwards on paper, but certainly capable of generating offense. The defense is elite, with perennial Norris Trophy candidates Erik Karlsson and Shea Weber teaming up with Victor Hedman. Carey Price is another name to watch as he looks to keep opposing shooters off-balance, while Tuukka Rask will see action in the second half of the opening game.
ABOUT THE CENTRAL DIVISION: Stanley Cup pedigree will be on display when the Central All-Stars hit the ice in the opening semifinal; the Chicago Blackhawks have four players on the roster, with forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews joined by defenseman Duncan Keith and netminder Corey Crawford. The quartet of Blackhawks are accompanied by four terrific young forwards: rookie Patrik Laine, Nathan MacKinnon, Tyler Seguin and Vladimir Tarasenko. Joining Keith on the blue line are two other players who know a thing or two about logging heavy minutes: team captain P.K. Subban and defensive stalwart Ryan Suter. Crawford is joined by Devan Dubnyk in goal.
ABOUT THE PACIFIC DIVISION: NHL scoring leader Connor McDavid will guide an ultra-talented Pacific squad looking to defend its All-Star Game crown. McDavid will look to lean on goal-scoring talents Jeff Carter and Joe Pavelski, while Bo Horvat, Johnny Gaudreau and Ryan Kesler round out the forward sextet. Superstar defenseman Brent Burns will essentially give the Pacific team an extra forward whenever he’s on the ice, and fellow blue-liners Drew Doughty and Cam Fowler are also talented on offense and should make things difficult for the opposition. The goaltending duo of Mike Smith and Martin Jones might not carry much name recognition, but both are enjoying solid seasons.
HOST TEAM ICE GIRLS:
* The teams that scored first in last year’s semifinals went on to lose both times.
* Underdogs won both semifinals in 2016, while the Pacific prevailed as a -105 fave in the final.
* Teams averaged 19.3 shots per 20-minute game last year.