There was a lot to unpack at the 2016 NHL All Star Game. Unlike most seasons - when the mid-season event is a rote obligation like renewing a drivers licence or cleaning the garage - this year had a lot of new elements. From the 3-on-3 format to the four divisional teams to the transformation of one the league's premier boogeymen into a fun, sympathetic figure, this was already one of the most memorable All Star Games in recent memory.
Then they played the thing. And it was surreal.
The Pacific Division defeated the Atlantic Division 1-0 (yep) in the third and final game of a 3-on-3 tournament-style All Star event at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. Anaheim's Corey Perry scored the game's only goal and goalies John Gibson and Jonathan Quick combined to make 17 saves for the shutout.
But forget that. Because the real madness happened in the second game, when the Pacific defeated the Central Division 9-6, getting two (2) (dos) (as in, multiple) goals from captain John Scott, whom the NHL infamously tried to bully out of the game when the internet voting finished in a way the suits didn't like.
Scott was named the game's Most Valuable Player after another overwhelming fan vote. Following his name not being listed among the MVP finalists on the jumbotron, fans chanted "MVP" every time Scott hit the ice, swaying whoever made the final decision. In the end, Scott will take a new car and his share of a big check for $1 million dollars back to AHL Newfoundland this week, another first for an NHL All Star.
Scott was far and away the man of the hour, getting a Rudy-like lift from former Sharks teammates Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns after the game.
He even got into a playful "fight" with another former teammate in Patrick Kane. Basically, the smile didn't leave Scott's face for the entire three-hour event. He even managed to do this to blowhard Jeremy Roenick, for which he should get a medal:
But don't let the NHL's cheery tweets fool you: they tried everything they could to make this not happen. They opened the voting, people voted, and then they decided they didn't like it. And the harder they tried to keep him out, the more John Scott - a player most people wanted thrown out of hockey a year ago - became one of the league's most interesting and likable personalities. Then, even more incredibly, he was one amazing part of a well-played, highly entertaining exhibition game. We will never see anything like this again.
The 3-on-3 format made the game competitive from the get-go. Teams in all three periods traded golden chances, which was expected, but we also saw more big saves, takeaways and back-checking than we've seen in forever in an All Star game. Scott stole the puck from Kane in a big hit in center ice, too.
Gibson in particular was very good in goal for the Pacific and Roberto Luongo made a few huge saves in the Metropolitan Division's loss to the Atlantic in the first game.
Whether it was the format or the teams or the money on the line, this was as dramatic as a meaningless game could get. It seems the players had a good time, too.
Lost in the John Scott fairy tale: The players LOVED the new All-Star Game format. Competitive, fun and some pride on the line. #NHLAllStar— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) February 1, 2016
Okay, shut up. How was Tavares?
If you were watching just for John Tavares, your evening was a short one. The Metro team captained by Tavares lost the first game of the day to the Atlantic 4-3, and the Islanders captain didn't figure in any of the scoring.
Although it wasn't from a lack of trying or ice time. Tavares and linemates Claude Giroux and Ryan McDonagh saw a lot of ice, but couldn't solve either Luongo or Ben Bishop. Tavares was definitely engaged - and looked like he looks during a normal game to be honest - but was on the ice for two goals against. Oh well. Evgeni Malkin led the Metro with a (spectacular) goal and an assist.
Tavares will have to live with being a super accurate, super fast shooter and a generally amazing person and hockey player.
Today was John Scott's day. And that's cool.