By Mary Cunningham
Some fans were entertained and some were offended.
But no one was defensive about Sunday’s NHL All-Star game in Columbus.
Because there was no defense.
Maybe no one has ever played a game quite as offensive as this one.
The NHL set a record for the highest-scoring game in All-Star Game history when John Tavares scored four goals and the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek added three to pace Team Toews to a 17-12 win against Team Foligno.
That’s not a misprint.
“I feel for the goalies, I do,” said Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar.
It was the highest-winning score in league history. John Tavares tied an All-Star record for goals in a game that was previously held by Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and three others. Voracek, currently the NHL’s leading scorer, tied Lemieux’s record of six points in a game.
“That’s what fans want to see,” Stamkos said. “They want to see goals and scoring opportunities.”
What fans didn’t see was any hitting, and any defensive play. It was like pond hockey being played by many of top puck wizards in the game.
“It feels like summer hockey,” said Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who had a pair of goals.
Clearly fans had fun, booing former Columbus Blue Jackets player Rick Nash when the New York Ranger scored two goals. His sin was that he asked to be traded three years ago.
The fans razzed Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, playing for Team Foligno, as he was getting lit up for seven goals on 16 shots in the second period. They cheered mockingly every time he made a save.
“(Fleury) actually came to me on the first TV timeout,” Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo said. “I don’t know what that meant. He was looking for some comfort words or something from me. He wasn’t on my team, so I wasn’t going in for him. What are you going to do? It’s an All-Star Game.”
Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen was named the game’s MVP on a fan vote after registering two goals and two assists. It undoubtedly helped his vote total that he was playing in his home arena.
As a young player, the game probably had more significance for Johansen, who is still establishing his reputation as a rising star in the game.
“He has sweet hands for sure,” Kopitar said. “He’s a big boy and he’s very strong on the book.”
Johansen is the foundation of the Blue Jackets’ hope for success.
“I think people are starting to pay attention to him,” Stamkos said. “Maybe he flew under the radar a little bit last year. To have the combination of size and skill … he has played great for these guys. He’s a tough guy to play against when he is on his game.”
It wasn’t NHL-caliber hockey, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Players all said they enjoyed the event, except maybe the Civil War-style cannon fire that is used to celebrate goals.
“I hate the cannon,” said Flyers center Claude Giroux. “It gets me every time.”
The boom is always loud and startling even though everyone knows it is coming when the home team scores.
“It’s loud enough that it gets on your nerves pretty quickly, especially when they score 12 or so goals,” Chicago’s Jonathan Toews said. “It gets to you a little bit.”
The All-Star Game is always more like a convention than a competition. It’s a chance for players to bring their families to an NHL event. Players hang out with each other.
Said Stamkos: “Sometimes you just need to get away from the grind a little bit, and guys were able to do it a little bit this weekend.”