SUNRISE, Fla. — David Pastrnak was unbothered as he scored on a pump-fake five-hole tuck on Ilya Sorokin. The Bruins’ All-Star did that despite Alex Ovechkin throwing his stick as No. 88 cruised in alone.
Pastrnak said he saw the stick coming, and was in no danger.
“I should have kept it,” he said.
While the Atlantic Division’s 7-5 win over the Central in the All-Star final Saturday was a bit less fiery, the Atlantic’s 10-6 semifinal win over the Metropolitan was, dare we say, competitive.
Sidney Crosby was backchecking and teaming up with Ovechkin. Matthew Tkachuk, the MVP winner after posting 4-3—7 totals, scored on Sorokin by ripping a half-slapper from the slot. Ovechkin jokingly blamed his netminders for the Metropolitan team’s exit.
Dylan Larkin (5-1—6), who had a hat trick in the final, was another MVP contender.
Still star-struck at these events nine years into the league, Pastrnak had All-Star signatures all over one of his sticks, and expected he would hang it in a prominent place.
“It never gets old,” said Pastrnak (2-0—2), who also scored on a slick wrister through Connor Hellebuyck’s pads. “These are the guys writing history. Ovechkin, Crosby, [Connor] McDavid, those guys don’t come around very often. It’s a pleasure to watch. When they play against you, it’s amazing what you see. You just hope they’re going to take the night off.”
After firing a 200-foot slapper wide of the net during Friday’s goalie shooting-accuracy competition, Linus Ullmark earned his point. In the semifinal Saturday, the Bruins’ netminder sailed a long outlet pass up the ice that led to a Nick Suzuki goal.
Ullmark was hung out to dry on the three goals he allowed (on six shots) in his first All-Star appearance, but he stopped all six shots he saw in the final.
“It’s brutal on goalies,” Ullmark said of the weekend. “It’s entertainment, that’s what it is.”
Rivals make a great team
Perhaps the one lasting moment of All-Star Weekend was the widespread appreciation for all-time greats Ovechkin and Crosby, who temporarily put their longstanding rivalry to rest in order to reflect on their careers.
They also combined for a couple of two-on-none goals, both off Crosby takeaways. Who said there’s no defense in this event?
Ovechkin and Crosby came into the league together in 2005-06 and have been linked ever since, competing for every major honor in the game.
“Before we ever played a game against each other, there was a rivalry.” Crosby said. “It was always set up that way. I think over time, you understand that it gets heated and intense on the ice. We both want to have success. But you appreciate you playing against each other for as long as it’s been. To still be in a tight playoff race against each other all these years later, to see what he’s doing, you just appreciate all that.”
The two stars seemed to be having fun with each other, especially when Crosby, 35, and Ovechkin, 37, were joined during Friday’s skills competition by Ovechkin’s 4-year-old son, Sergei, for the breakaway challenge. They broke in on a three-on-none, Sergei finishing with a tap-in under a comically sprawling Roberto Luongo.
Things between Ovechkin’s Capitals and Crosby’s Penguins could get spicy down the stretch. They’re both in wild-card position in the Eastern Conference, with Washington 3 points ahead of Pittsburgh. The teams meet in Pittsburgh on March 25.
“I enjoy it, boys enjoy it, kids enjoy it, family enjoy it,” Ovechkin said Saturday. “You never know if you’re gonna be in the All-Star Game one more time or not.”
Toronto’s next up to host
Commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed during his pregame press conference that the 2024 All-Star Weekend will be held in chilly Toronto.
“The Torontonians are excited about it,” said Mitch Marner, whose home city last hosted in 2000. “It’s going to be a little colder than here, obviously … The city is always buzzing, especially for an event like this.”
Rumors had the league cutting down the list of All-Star cities to warm-weather locales and big markets such as Toronto, New York, and Chicago. Bettman made it sound like the league would continue to spread out the All-Star love.
There was no confirmation of the All-Star Weekend location for 2025 — which happens to be during the 100th anniversary of the Bruins’ inaugural season.
Bettman speaks to Pride Nights
Bettman pushed back on the idea that Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov and the Rangers opting out of Pride Nights, and the cancellation of a diversity and inclusion job fair in South Florida at the behest of conservative Governor Ron DeSantis, was a message that hockey is not, as the league mantra goes, for everyone.
“Our goals, our values and our intentions are across the league, whether it’s at the league level or at the club level,” Bettman said. “But we also have to respect some individual choice, and some people are more comfortable embracing themselves in causes than others. And part of being diverse and welcoming is understanding those differences.
“I’m sure you don’t endorse every single charity that solicits you, and you don’t participate in every social cause. you pick and choose the ones that are important to you. The ones you don’t choose to do don’t necessarily make you bigoted, misogynistic, or homophobic, or racist.
McDavid favors 1 vs. 8 playoff format
McDavid said he’d like to see the league return to the old 1 vs. 8 playoff format. Bettman wasn’t jumping at that idea. “There is a competition committee and we have discussions about the game all the time, and that’s actually the best place to talk about it,” Bettman said. “The debate of 1 vs. 8, it’s not just that. You’ve got to also look at then changing the wild card and you’ve got to start looking at the matchups in terms of how many times everybody’s playing everybody else if you’re having conference-based playoffs. So it’s not as simple as saying, ‘I’d like 1 vs. 8,′ vs. what we have. It involves a whole host of other issues that have to be addressed.” Deputy commissioner Bill Daly added that two-thirds of the general managers, in a poll two years ago, favored no change in the format … Some 15 groups have put in bids to buy the Senators, Bettman said, adding that the team would not be leaving Ottawa and is likely moving downtown. That was welcome news to any traveling beat writer, considering the drive from downtown to Kanata, where the Senators play, can take 45 minutes.
Matt Porter can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.