NHL's All-Star fantasy draft a big success

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NHL's All-Star fantasy draft a big success

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

RALEIGH, N.C. Zdeno Chara didnt get what he wanted, but it appears the NHL got exactly what they wanted in their newfound creation.

The NHL All-Star fantasy draft was a goofy hit in its first year of existence in the Raleigh home of the Carolina Hurricanes, and appears to be something that could stick around for a while.

Chara went in the fourth round to Team Staal as the first Bs player taken, and goalie Tim Thomas went in the fifth round to Team Lidstrom on a stage set up at the Fan Fair floor in the Raleigh Civic Center.

Former UVM teammates Marty St. Louis made the announcement that Team Lidstrom would take Thomas, and then gave a shout out to his former Catamounts teammate while announcing the selection.

Chara had mentioned leading up to the event that he really wanted to play with Niklas Lidstrom after admiring the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman from afar all these years, but Chara was instead nabbed by Eric Staal and Co. one pick ahead of where the Red Wings defenseman intended to take him.

So Chara and Thomas will be on opposite teams for the first time in more than five years, and everyone will get to see if Thomas prediction from a month ago actually comes true.

When asked then what would happen if they ended up on different All-Star teams as a result of the newfangled draft process, Thomas replied: I win and Zee loses.

Chara wouldnt make any bold predictions on Friday night, but he admitted going up against Thomas was a challenge he would thoroughly enjoy.

He is competitive, he always plays hard and Im sure hes going to play the same, said Chara. Now were on opposite sides.

Both Bruins went among the top 10 players selected by their peers, and showed just how highly both Thomas and Chara are regarded among their peers in their respective roles as All-World goalie and intimidating, strong defenseman.

I was a little bit nervous, but its an honor to be picked and I was happy about getting taken pretty early, said Chara. It was nice to see the guys a little relaxed and a little different from the way we know them from the ice. But it was also pretty obvious that the guys meant business when they were trying to pick the teams.

I liked the draft. It was something different. Well see if they stick with it. Especially with the mic'd up players it was great to see what the guys were thinking. Its always fun to get a look behind the scenes. Its a privilege to be an All-Star no matter who Im playing with. Everybody deserves to be here, everybody is a good player and Im just happy to be here.

Speaking of everybody deserving to be at the All-Star game, as we predicted this morning, Phil Kessel was the last man standing among the All-Star draftees and was picked last among the roster of 36 players. For that honor he was awarded with a Honda car and 20,000 in his name to his charity of choice in exchange for being named Mr. Irrelevant All-Star edition.

It doesnt matter. Im just excited to be an All-Star and happy to be here, said Kessel. Its not a big deal. Obviously the 20,000 for my charity is a great thing, and it should be really good. Itll be nice when Im captain of the team and I can pick them last some time. Nah, just kidding.

A joke from Kessel?

My, oh my, the introverted former Bs sniper really has come a long way since his Boston days of social anxiety and invisible personality.

Will he drive the Honda hybrid he was awarded as the final All-Star selected by his peers?

Yeah, Ill drive it, said Kessel. Ill drive it and put it somewhere.

Okay then.

While the concept will make it quasi-interesting on Sunday when Thomas and Chara line up on different teams after the puck is dropped at the RBC Center, the real star of the weekend was Brendan Shanahans creation within the walls of the NHL home offices: the fantasy player draft.

It was creative and outside the box, and it also worked really well.

Thomas revealed to reporters that there was a message among the players to play up some of the drama, humor and soap opera quality of the proceedings on Friday night, and the players acted like All-Star thespians in that regard as well.

It seemed to be a success and the fans were having a good time, so thats what its all about, said Thomas. I heard that they were trying to sell this as a way for people to see another side of guys personalities, so hopefully that showed up.

Jonathan Toews played off as if he was truly angry when teammate Patrick Kane picked both Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks Captain, and Eric Staal made no effort to hide the nepotism in selecting teammate Cam Ward with the first selection in the entire draft of talented players.

"Nobody really told us what it was going to be like, so nobody really knew what to expect," said Marc Staal, who had to wait to be picked by his brother Eric until after Chara was selected. But it was well done. It was pretty cool, it was a lot of fun. It makes it a little more interesting than East and West, a little different dynamic to it. Hopefully it works out to be a good game.

When there were only a handful of players left to be picked, it really did turn into the uncomfortable sensation of watching one lonely soul be the last person picked for kickball in the schoolyard.

The means the fantasy draft certainly lived up to the schoolyard hype that many hoped it would leading up the event.

It wouldnt be shocking to see this kind of thing become a tradition after it played well the first time around, so lets just hope the players keep the same kind of good humor and playful nature in the coming years.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

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Morning Skate: No surprise cheap-shot artists are running wild

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while hoping everybody on this Memorial Day takes some time to appreciate all of those that made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. We should also take a moment to say thanks to people like the three heroes in Oregon that stood up to a hateful bigot earlier this week, and in doing so reaffirmed what the majority of people living in the US believe we are all about while trying to live up to that ideal every day.
 
-- A number of NHL legends are shaking their heads at the dirty play that we’re seeing in these playoffs, particularly those plays targeting the superstars that people pay big money to see in the postseason. Why should anybody be shocked by this? The rooting out of enforcers, and fighting, has taken accountability out of the game for the cheap-shot artists and dirty players, and leaves little real deterrant for players looking to take out opponents with dangerous plays. I wrote about this a couple of years ago when the NHL threw the book at Shawn Thornton for going after Brooks Orpik, and in doing so chose to protect somebody trying to hurt opponents (Orpik) and punish somebody trying to protect his teammates (Thornton). It was a sea change for the league, and something players didn’t forget as more and more enforcers were quickly weeded out of the NHL. This is what the rule-makers and legislators wanted, and now it’s what they’re getting just a couple of years later with dangerous stick-work, cheap shots and a general lack of respect for fellow players.
 
-- Here's why the Tampa Bay Lightning would consider trading a player like Jonathan Drouin, and the major impact that could have on the offseason trade market.
 
-- Down Goes Brown has a Stanley Cup Final rooting guide for the other 28 other fan bases now that Nashville and Pittsburgh are in the final series.

-- So which goaltender has the edge in the Stanley Cup Final: Nashville's Pekka Rinne, or Pittsburgh's two-headed monster of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury?
 
-- Scotty Bowman says winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles has become monumentally difficult since the advent of the salary cap.
 
-- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are pushing each other to be betters, and showing exactly how a team should be led by its superstars in the salary-cap era for the league.
 
-- For something completely different: We can confirm through this report that a lot of hot dogs are eaten in the summertime. So glad we have people to research these kinds of things.