All-Star Game goalies finding creative ways to enjoy experience

Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Tampa Bay Lightning goalie, snares Sidney Crosby‘s backhanded shot from the slot with his glove, fakes as if he’s going to keep the puck in play and move it to a skater, but instead decides he’ll skate the puck out himself.

He skates. He dips his shoulder, dangles and dekes, then moves the puck to a teammate having already started the offense from the back end.

“Why not?” Vasilevskiy asked rhetorically.


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Because never in a million years would this happen in a regular game.

But it could happen during the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Game at SAP Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS), where the goalies will want to be part of the show in a good way other than just being the foil for the elite forwards and defensemen playing a wide open game of 3-on-3, attacking the netminders with a string of breakaways, 2-on-0s and 2-on-1s that at any other point in the season would give them nightmares.

“I mean, it’s pretty hard,” Vasilevskiy said. “Especially for me, because I’m not Patrick Roy, but maybe I’ll try something like that at some point. It’s a show. It’s all for the fans so maybe I will do something.”

Maybe they all will, all eight of them that are guaranteed at least 10 minutes in net.

The goalies in the All-Star Game obviously want to make as many saves as they can because, really, that is the point, to stop the breakaways, the 2-on-0s and the 2-on-1s. But breaking out of their comfort zones, away from their normal see the puck, stop the puck mentality, and taking a risk just for the fun of it, could make the event a heck of a lot more fun for them.

Otherwise it’s a tough 10 minutes on the goalies.

“I might have to,” Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “I mean, my previous All-Star Game statistics are not great so I’ve got really nothing to lose.”

Dubnyk allowed five goals on 13 shots in his 10 minutes of action for the Central Division at the 2016 All-Star Game in Nashville. He allowed five goals on 11 shots in his 10 minutes at the 2017 game in Los Angeles.

“An even 5.00 GAA,” Dubnyk said. “It’s the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

Understandably so. The best players in the world are bearing down on the goalies in the All-Star Game, more so now in the 3-on-3 format.

Goals are what people want, and lots of them. Goalies aren’t fooling themselves to think they are here to steal the show.

There have been 84 goals scored in 180 minutes, an average of 28.0 per 60 minutes, since the NHL went to the 3-on-3 format for the 2016 All-Star Game. There was an average of 21.6 goals scored in the previous five All-Star Games, each in a traditional 5-on-5, 60-minute game format.

More open ice, more skill, more opportunity, more goals, just like in overtime in the regular season since the League went to 3-on-3 play in 2015.

“Look at these guys you’ve got to stop,” Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “Usually it’s only one or two of them a night. But here every single guy out on that ice can wire the puck. I’m just happy that [Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston] Matthews and [Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita] Kucherov are on my side.”

The key for the goalies to have a chance to steal the show, to have a chance to be the sixth goalie in All-Star Game history and first since Mike Richter in 1994 to win MVP, Dubnyk said, is to relax and, frankly, just be realistic.

“That is one thing I learned in L.A. over Nashville,” Dubnyk said. “I was a little high strung in Nashville. I was worried about getting embarrassed in the first game. Then you go let in five goals and you realize an hour later nobody cares.”

He cared in the moment because he’s an NHL goalie and he’s competitive. But the odds of a goalie having a dominant performance is slim, which is why perspective and almost a Zen-like attitude is important for All-Star Game goalies.

“You pretty much have to stand on your head to stand out otherwise you’re going to give up four or five goals, and be OK with it,” New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said.

Be OK with it.

“Normally if I give up four goals, yeah, I would be pretty upset, but this week it’s more about celebrating the game and having fun,” Lundqvist said. “And whatever happens out there happens.

“You still want to win. You still want to perform. But it’s definitely different. I don’t go out to a regular-season game like, ‘I’m going to enjoy this.’ No, I’m going to go out and win and do my best. Here it’s more, ‘Yeah I’ll do my best but I’m also going to enjoy this.'”

And maybe try something new too?

“Maybe,” Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne said. “Maybe I’ll do something crazy.”

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