When the NHL changed its All-Star format in 2016 to a 3-on-3 tournament, the number of selections got tighter. Featuring four teams representing each division, only six forwards, three defenseman and two goalies per division are named to the All-Star game.
Tough decisions had to be made somewhere.
That being said, the Capitals had three representatives in the Metropolitan division when rosters were announced Wednesday. Star forward Alex Ovechkin and goalie Braden Holtby were named as players on the Metropolitan Division team, while Barry Trotz was selected as coach.
The NHL’s All-Star game takes place Jan. 28 in Tampa, Florida, at Amalie Arena
This will be Ovechkin’s seventh All-Star appearance of his career, and his ninth overall selection. His selection was announced last week when the NHL revealed Ovechkin as a team captain for receiving the most fan votes for the Metropolitan team.
The votes were well deserved. At age 32, Ovechkin leads the NHL with 27 goals and is on pace for another 50-goal season.
Ovechkin spent the offseason training to return to form after a down 2016-17 in which he scored just 33 goals, his lowest total since 2010-11.
Trotz said Ovechkin has earned the respect of an entire generation of players.
“It’s hard to be in this league to play at a very high level and produce at a high level for a long time,” Trotz said. “If you’re able to do that, you’re going to the Hall of Fame, plain and simple.”
Holtby, too, has had an excellent season, covering for the Capitals on nights when their young defensemen are still adapting to the NHL. Earning his third straight All-Star appearance, Holtby has a .917 save percentage this season.
Over the last three seasons, Holtby leads the league with 178 wins.
Trotz, who is also making his third straight appearance, was named the Metro’s coach because the Capitals are leading their division. Trotz’s selection was clinched Saturday.
“If you would have asked me about after the first five or six games with the way we started, I don’t think that would have been in the horizon,” Trotz said, jokingly.
The Capitals were 4-5-1 after their first 10 games.
The big omission for the Metropolitan team might be the Capitals’ John Carlson, who has the second-most points among defensemen this season with 34 (five goals, 29 assists).
Carlson has stepped up for the Capitals throughout this season, especially while playing extra minutes when defenseman Matt Niskanen missed 18 games to injury. This season, Carlson has averaged 26:20 of ice time per game.
But the nature of the NHL’s All-Star game means there are limited spots. The league selected Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, Columbus’ Seth Jones and Carolina’s Noah Hanifin instead.
Besides Ovechkin, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, New Jersey’s Taylor Hall, Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux and the Islanders’ Josh Bailey and John Tavares were the forwards named to the Metro’s team. The Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist was the other goaltender named, in addition to Holtby.