NHL fans, general managers and the league have had their say. Now it's time for our say, as we present CBCSports.ca selections for the 2009 NHL Eastern Conference all-star team.
Always a lightning rod for criticism, this year's fan voting for the six starters came under even more fire than usual when four Canadiens landed spots in the lineup for the Jan. 25 game in Montreal. So forgive us for feeling we've done a lot better.
Before you send those angry emails, know that we too followed the NHL policy requiring at least one representative from each club. Hey, we don't make the rules, we just follow 'em.
All stats are through Jan. 7.
THE STARTING SIX
Tim Thomas, G, Boston Bruins: He's no one-year wonder. The late bloomer's stellar play was the key to Boston's hot start. One question, though: with backup Manny Fernandez's numbers looking eerily similar, is Thomas a product of the Bruins' system?
Mark Streit, D, New York Islanders: Quick, who leads all NHL defencemen in points? That would be Streit, with 32 in 41 games for the lowly Islanders. Still not sold? Ask the Habs how their power play is doing without him.
Dennis Wideman, D, Boston: With a robust 26 points and an NHL-best plus-minus rating of 25, he's the most underrated player on the East's best team. Amazingly, he didn't even make the all-star team as a reserve.
Alex Ovechkin, F, Washington Capitals: Jeff Carter and Thomas Vanek got off to great goal-scoring starts, but guess who just caught up? Ovechkin, the reigning NHL scoring champion and MVP, might make the starting lineup on some fans' all-time all-star team, let alone this year's Eastern Conference squad. Sorry, Montreal fans, you picked the wrong Alex.
Evgeni Malkin, F, Pittsburgh Penguins: His 63 points are 10 more than anyone else in the league has, and his 48 assists are 11 clear of the next-highest guy.
Sidney Crosby, F, Pittsburgh: Some say he might no longer be the best player on his own team, but Sid the Kid continues to produce points despite being the focal point of every opponent's game plan. Now if he can just learn to stay out of the box.
Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens: Missed a bunch of games due to injury, but check out that record (16-4-5) and save percentage (.921).
Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers: Not as dominant as last year, but the need for a Rangers rep give him the edge over Buffalo's Ryan Miller and brave Mike Smith of terrible Tampa Bay.
Tomas Kaberle, D, Toronto Maple Leafs: Cold-blooded playmaker has a solid 23 assists for the star-deprived Leafs.
Zdeno Chara, D, Boston: Takes a ton of penalties, but the B's ice-time leader is rock-solid as ever. Plus, we love to watch him in the hardest-shot contest.
Jay Bouwmeester, D, Florida Panthers: Workhorse logs more than 27 minutes a game, and the goals are starting to come
Mike Green, D, Washington: Hampered by injury, but averaging almost a point a game.
Jeff Carter, F, Philadelphia Flyers: His 27 goals are tied with Ovechkin and Vanek for the league lead.
Thomas Vanek, F, Buffalo Sabres: Weird stat line: Just 10 assists to go with those 27 goals.
Marc Savard, F, Boston: With apologies to Crosby, maybe the best pure playmaker this side of Joe Thornton.
Zach Parise, F, New Jersey Devils: When will this ultra-disciplined Devil get his due?
Daniel Alredsson, F, Ottawa Senators: Senators are a sinking ship, but their captain remains one of the most efficient two-way players in hockey.
Ilya Kovalchuk, F, Atlanta Thrashers: Has his flaws, but someone has to represent awful Atlanta.
Martin St. Louis, F, Tampa Bay Lightning: Gets the nod over Vinny Lecavalier because of his superior point total and Mother Teresa-like two penalty minutes — remarkable considering the frustration level in Tampa.
Eric Staal, F, Carolina Hurricanes: Thirty-one points is disappointing, but his plus-11 easily tops the mediocre Hurricanes.
Phil Kessel, F, Boson: Making those who prematurely labelled him a bust look foolish with a breakout season.
Mike Richards, F, Philadelphia: Carter gets the press, but Richards is Philly's best two-way player.
Patrik Elias, F, New Jersey: 46 points in 39 games. Yeah, we had to read that twice too.
Simon Gagne, F, Philadelphia: Inspiring comeback from last year's concussion problems.
Andrei Markov, D, Montreal: Canadiens' power play is down, but where would it be without him?
Alex Kovalev, F, Montreal: Love your loyalty, Hab fans, but the mercurial Russian doesn't belong on the Eastern bench, let alone the starting lineup.