NEW YORK – Only Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin prevented the Montreal Canadiens from an all-star sweep.
The NHL announced the starting lineups Saturday for the mid-season classic, and the host Canadiens filled four of the six slots for the Eastern Conference.
Crosby and Malkin, teammates and linemates with the defending East champion Pittsburgh Penguins, both broke the record for the most votes and claimed two forward positions. They will be joined up front by Montreal’s Alex Kovalev.
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, the league’s reigning MVP and second this season in goals and points entering Saturday, finished only sixth among Eastern Conference forwards in the voting – which mystified his coach.
“It’s dumb,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, adding: “It’s not right the best player in the game is not a starter.”
Jaromir Jagr, a former Penguins star, had held the record for votes, but his mark was broken by 11 players – including all six East starters – in this year’s fan balloting conducted online and via text messaging.
Crosby, elected as a starter for the third time, garnered 1,713,021 votes – shattering Jagr’s 2000 total of 1,020,736. Malkin was second with more than 1.5 million votes.
At one point during the voting process, the Canadiens led all six positions. Still, hockey’s version of the New York Yankees will be well represented, as the franchise, which last hosted the all-star game in 1993, celebrates its 100th anniversary.
“In three weeks, the world’s greatest players will come here, to one of the world’s great hockey cities, to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens,” former Canadiens star Jean Beliveau said in announcing the rosters. “I had the pleasure of playing in 13 all-star Games and I can tell you it was an absolute honour. I look forward to watching the stars of today.”
Besides the Penguins and Canadiens, only the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks of the Western Conference are represented in the starting lineups.
Montreal’s Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek will start on defence, and Canadiens teammate Carey Price will be in goal on home ice at the Bell Centre on Jan. 25. Price barely beat out Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, finishing fewer than 30,000 votes ahead. Each player led the race in the final hours of voting Friday night.
Another pair of teammates dominated the voting for the Western Conference as 20-year-olds Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews of the upstart Blackhawks were the two leading vote-getters.
Kane, last season’s rookie of the year, earned 100,000 more votes than Toews – a rookie of the year finalist and the Blackhawks’ new captain. Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks will be the third forward on the starting line.
Brian Campbell, Chicago’s key free-agent acquisition last summer, finished first among defenceman and will be an all-star starter for the second time in three years. This marks the first time he will suit up for the West after playing for the East squad while a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
He will team with Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer on the blue-line in front of Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, a Montreal native and first-time starter.
The Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings were shut out of the Western starting lineup. Team captain Nicklas Lidstrom came the closest, finishing fourth among defenceman – 67,000 votes behind Niedermayer.
Half of the 12 starters are 23 or younger and seven were elected for the first time. Crosby has earned the most votes in three straight seasons, but he sat out last year’s game in Atlanta because of an ankle sprain.
Most of the record 34 million votes were cast online, but more than 15 million were registered by text messaging. In the final five days of voting, 4.3 million votes were recorded by text.