For the first time since the three-on-three format was implemented, the Atlantic Division has won the NHL All-Star Game with a 7-5 victory over the Central Division.
The 2023 NHL All-Star Game got off to a drowsy start with a snoozer between the Central Division and the Pacific Division. The Central prevailed, 6-4, and fans could only hope for better hockey the rest of the way.
That's exactly what they got when the Metro Division faced off against the Atlantic Division in the second game. Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin teamed up for a pair of goals that drew a big reaction from the crowd, and Johnny Gaudreau scored a hat trick for the Metro Division. However, the Atlantic Division was paced by hometown hero Matthew Tkachuk, who scored a hat trick of his own in a 10-6 win.
In order for the Central Division to win the final, it was going to have to up its intensity level, and that did not happen. The Atlantic Division was buzzing all afternoon, and it built an early lead over the Central and did not look back. Matthew Tkachuk and Dylan Larkin continued their dominance from the semifinal game and combined for four goals against the Central.
Now the Atlantic Division, along with head coach Jim Montomery, will split the $1 million prize and head home with their wallets just a little heavier than they were on the way down to South Florida.
Matthew Tkachuk shines in front of hometown fans
As anyone could tell from watching these games throughout the afternoon, interest level can vary wildly from player to player in the All-Star game. Fortunately for the local Florida Panthers fans in Sunrise, Matthew Tkachuk was on a mission to show out for them.
In the Atlantic Division's win over the Metro Division, Tkachuk found the back of the net three times for the hat trick, and he added a pair of assists to boot. In the championship matchup, Tkachuk notched another goal and an assist while leading the Atlantic team to a win.
Tkachuk was eventually rewarded for his efforts with the title of All-Star Game MVP and a new car from Honda.
It has been a frustrating season for the Panthers, but Tkachuk has been a major bright spot, including today's performance. Since being traded to Florida from the Calgary Flames, Tkachuk has lived up to the hype with 25 goals and 66 points in 49 games. His popularity in Sunrise will only continue to grow after dominating the All-Star Game.
Living legends team up for Metro Division
Early on in their careers, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were very much rivals. They were compared to one another at every turn, and Crosby's Pittsburgh Penguins continued to get the best of Ovechkin's Washington Capitals in the postseason.
Ovechkin and the Capitals eventually broke through in 2018 by defeating Crosby and the Penguins on their way to a Stanley Cup championship, which only added another chapter to the rivalry.
Now, with both players in the late stages of their careers, it's clear that Ovechkin and Crosby have a lot of respect for one another. After all, they are two of just three active players with 500 career goals. That's a pretty exclusive club.
In this weekend's All-Star Game, Metro Division head coach Rod Brind'Amour made the wise decision to put Ovechkin and Crosby on the same line, and it paid off. On two separate occasions in the Metro's loss to the Atlantic Division, Crosby and Ovechkin teamed up on a 2-on-0. In a twist of fate, it was Crosby who finished both plays with a goal, and not the player chasing Wayne Gretzky for the all-time goals record.
Getting to see Ovechkin and Crosby team up and have some fun together on the same sheet of ice will be something fans remember for a long time.
All-Star Game could use some added excitement
One of the three All-Star games delivered today. That's not a great batting average if you're the NHL, and the league may need to make some changes to keep things fresh.
Making the All-Star Game more intense will always be a challenge because of the lack of physicality and stakes, but there could be ways to make it more fun. Not that Gary Bettman is asking me, but the NHL could start by eliminating offside reviews in the All-Star Game, or eliminating offside altogether. Just let the best players in the world have free rein to go wherever they want on the ice.
The league could also introduce a second puck in the last couple of minutes of each period. That might create some logistical issues, and the broadcast team might get a headache, but it could create some chaos and force players to get creative.
If that is too much of a player safety concern, how about introducing a money puck after every third goal that is worth two points? That could help teams erase the large deficits that sometimes develop in these games, and it would provide an added level of intensity until someone scores for double the points.
The three-on-three format was a good idea, and it should remain moving forward, but there could be some tweaks that keep the event fresh and exciting for players and fans alike in future years.