COLUMBUS – Your trusty correspondent has a new favorite player and his name is John Tavares. Any player who can make a contribution to the kids’ education funds, or to the post All-Star Game beer fund, is worthy of my admiration.
My keen eye for talent conspired with Tavares’ brilliant scoring skill to win me a cool $360 (in inflated U.S. funds, no less!) in the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association All-Star Game pool. Ryan Johansen may have left with a new car, but yours truly probably has enough money to buy a couple of tires.
Here’s how it went down. For these big events, one of the writers usually organizes as game-winning goal pool. Each of us puts in 10 or 20 bucks, then randomly picks a name from the hat. If your player scores the game-winner, you take home the money.
This year, it was decided that we would have a double-pronged pool for $20 each. Half the winnings would go to the player who scored the game-winner and half would go to the player who had the most points. And here’s where it gets interesting.
When I got to the rink, I handed over my $20 and pulled out Rick Nash’s name. Pretty good one, I thought. In the World Junior pool, I ended up with some Russian defenseman whose name I couldn’t pronounce.
But here’s where the hockey acumen and the ability to make deals comes in. Part of making a deal is being in the right place at the right time, and that was where I found myself when I took my place in the press box on either side of respected Columbus Dispatch columnist Michael Arace and espn.com reporter and TSN insider Pierre LeBrun.
Arace had originally pulled Claude Giroux’s name and LeBrun had Tavares. It turns out LeBrun and Giroux come from the same hometown of Hearst, Ont., a place where there’s 10 months of winter and two months of bad skating. LeBrun wanted Giroux, but Arace wasn’t biting. But he did have a feeling about Nash, a player he covered for years when Nash played in Columbus. Arace figured Nash had a big game in him.
So I dealt Nash to Arace for Giroux, then made it a three-way deal by moving Giroux to LeBrun for Tavares. I was even more thrilled than when I originally made my pick.
As the goals started to pile up, it got interesting. And at 6:13 of the third period, Tavares scored his fourth goal of the game, which turned out to be the game-winner. That gave me half of the pool money. Had Tavares managed to score two more points, I would have won the other half and taken a quick overnight flight to Las Vegas.
LeBrun, who usually has a keen hockey mind, allowed hometown sentiment to cloud his judgment and he paid for it big-time. He told Tavares what he did after the game, to which Tavares said: “That was a bad decision, Dude.” Anyway, I have $320 to spend and Columbus awaits…
BIG GAME FOR JOHNNY HOCKEY: Being selected at the last minute to play in the All-Star Game automatically made Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames $212,500 richer. Gaudreau has a bonus in his contract that pays that amount for him being selected to play in the game.
There was some chatter before that the Flames were moving to keep him from playing in the game in order to avoid paying the bonus, but that’s a hard one to believe. That’s because Gaudreau has a bonus structure that maxes out at $850,000 and he’s a really good bet to hit enough of them even without playing in the All-Star Game.
Each of the bonus thresholds is worth $212,500, which means he’d have to hit four to collect the maximum amount. One of them is being named to the all-rookie team, an honor for which he seems a shoo-in. He needs to finish in the top three on the Flames in plus-minus (he’s currently second) and in the top six forwards in ice time (he’s third).
If he scores 0.73 points per game this season, he’ll achieve another bonus and he’s currently at 0.76. Other bonuses are for 20 goals (he’s on pace for 23), 35 assists (on pace for 39) and 60 points (on pace for 62).
DRIBS AND DRABS: There were zero – zero! – hits recorded in the All-Star Game…Anze Kopitar, Zemgus Girgensons and Phil Kessel were the only non-goalies to not record a point…Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was in on a little bit of inauspicious history when he gave up seven goals in the second period. The seven scored by Team Toews matched the record for goals in a period. “It was so long, probably the longest 20 minutes of my career,” Fleury said. “We are at this game to have fun, but at one point it was frustrating.”