For the third straight year, the NHL All Star Game has players from the Metropolitan, Atlantic, Central and Pacific divisions go head-to-head in a 3-on-3 tournament (each game is 20 minutes). All four teams will play in a semifinal game before the two winners meet in the final, where the players will be competing for a $1 million prize. Here’s a look at the Central vs. Pacific semifinal and our expert NHL betting pick.
NHL All Star Game Betting Preview: Central vs. PacificNBCSports.comRadio: WGN 720 AMOpening NHL All Star Game Lines: TBA
Why Bet on Central Division?Last year, the Central was routed 10-3 by the Pacific in the semifinals.Predators defenseman P.K. Subban is the team captain. Subban made history last season when he became the first Predators player to be named captain of an NHL All-Star Team.“It means a lot – very few athletes get to have not just the support of their own fanbase, but a global fanbase as well, and I’m very happy considering that I’ve heard more boos in other arenas than cheers,” Subban said. “But it’s a great honor, and I’m pretty happy to hear that I have the support of a lot of hockey fans.”Perhaps the most improved player in hockey this year is Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, a Hart Trophy candidate. The 22-year-old, now nearly a veteran five years into his career, tore through the league in the first half of this season, with the second-most points per game in the league through 41 games. Since Nov. 1, MacKinnon has been the NHL’s top scorer.
What Does the Coach Say About MacKinnon?“There’s a maturity to his game,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “We started seeing it at the end of last year. He’s found some chemistry with his linemates. He’s distributing the puck better. A lot of his success has come from his drive and his desire to be the best. He’s always in top condition, but this summer, he took his training to another level. It’s starting to show.”The Winnipeg Jets are a huge surprise this year in large part due to goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who plays in his first All-Star Game. “It’s awesome. It’s a big accomplishment in my life,” said Hellebuyck. “(My confidence) is high. It’s exactly where it was last year, but now I can really trust it.” As of Thursday, he has a 23-4-6 record, 2.36 GAA and .923 save percentage this campaign.The veteran of this group is former Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks. It’s his seventh selection and fourth straight and he’s about the only Chicago player having a good season. The Blackhawks had four players named to the game last season, a league-high. But they would lead the West in points last year before being swept in the playoffs. This year, they are last in the Central Division.
- F Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (7th ASG selection)
- F Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (2nd)
- F Brayden Schenn, Blues (1st)
- F Tyler Seguin, Stars (5th)
- F Eric Staal, Wild (5th)
- F Blake Wheeler, Jets (1st)
- D John Klingberg, Stars (1st)
- D Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (1st)
- D P.K. Subban, Predators (3rd)
- G Connor Hellebuyck, Jets (1st)
- G Pekka Rinne, Predators (2nd)
- Coach: Peter Laviolette, Predators (3rd)
Why Bet on Pacific?The Pacific bombed the Central 10-3 in last year’s semifinal. Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler and Kings center Jeff Carter scored the first two goals and the Pacific was never threatened as it overwhelmed Central goalies Corey Crawford (Chicago) and Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota) with five goals on each. In all, Pacific had nine different goal scorers. Fowler, Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary) and Bo Horvat (Vancouver) played as a threesome and combined for four goals and six assists. The Pacific scored 10 times on just 22 shots.Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith has been added to the roster for this game, replacing Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick on the Pacific Division roster. Kings GM Rob Blake said it’s to rest a nagging injury. Quick was able to play on Tuesday, but he did get yanked after allowing five goals on 19 shots.Smith represented the Coyotes last year. Smith, acquired by the Flames in a trade with the Coyotes on July 17, is 20-13-6 for Calgary this season. His .926 save percentage is fourth among NHL goaltenders with at least 20 games played, and his 2.39 goals-against average ranks seventh. Smith will join Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau on the Pacific Division roster, and will become the third Calgary goalie to be selected, joining Mike Vernon (1988-1991, 1993) and Miikka Kiprusoff (2007).The headliner of the Pacific is reigning Hart Trophy winner McDavid, who is the Pacific captain. He had a goal and two assists in the semifinal win against the Central Division last year. The Pacific then lost in the final, 4-3 to the Metropolitan. The 21-year-old prodigy was the league’s only 100-point scorer during the 2016-17 campaign, his second season in the NHL, earning the Art Ross Trophy in addition to being named the league’s MVP.
Who’s the Surprise This Time Around?Expansion Vegas is the NHL’s biggest surprise and has two All-Stars in goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who leads the league in GAA and save percentage, and forward James Neal. This will be the third All-Star Game for both Fleury and Neal. Fleury previously appeared in the 2011 and 2015 All-Star Games, while Neal played in the 2012 and 2016 editions.Meanwhile, Vancouver’s Brock Boeser is the only rookie in this All-Star Game. The 20-year-old scored a goal in his NHL debut against the Minnesota Wild last season and had five points (four goals, one assist) in nine games – still keeping his rookie status. This season, he’s first among rookies in goals and points. Boeser follows in the footsteps of Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine, who played in the All-Star Game in Los Angeles as rookies last season, and Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin and Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson, who played in the 2016 game in Nashville as rookies.The Pacific won the 2016 All-Star Game, 1-0 over the Atlantic in the final.
- F Brock Boeser, Canucks (1st)
- F Johnny Gaudreau, Flames (4th)
- F Anze Kopitar, Kings (4th)
- F Connor McDavid, Oilers (2nd)
- F James Neal, Golden Knights (3rd)
- F Rickard Rakell, Ducks (1st)
- D Brent Burns, Sharks (5th)
- D Drew Doughty, Kings (4th)
- D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (2nd)
- G Marc-Andre Fleury, Golden Knights (3rd)
- G Mike Smith, Flames (2nd)
- Coach: Gerard Gallant, Golden Knights (2nd)