A glance at the NHL All-Star Game voting totals this morning reveals some tightening of the races. Marian Hossa (166,915), Pavel Datsyuk (163,044) and Henrik Zetterberg (159,054) all lead the Western Conference forwards voting for the Detroit Red Wings, but Jarome Iginla (148,728) is right there and Patrick Kane (100,152) is also over one hundred-thousand votes.
But it's over in the East where things are finally getting interesting.
It appears that Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek -- barring a miraculous rally from Zdeno Chara, Sergei Gonchar (!) or Mike Green -- will be the starting defenseman in the all-star game. Ditto Carey Price in goal, who nearly leads Marc-Andre Fleury by 200,000 votes. (The much-heralded Vote for Thomas write-in campaign has produced just under 41,000 for the Boston Bruins netminder.) The only starting position the Montreal Canadiens might be in danger of losing is at forward.
Sidney Crosby (224,318) has closed the gap with Alex Tanguay (304,228) to less than 80,000 votes. Alexei Kovalev (310,516) and Saku Koivu (307,527) still lead all forwards in votes.
The Canadiens' pace has slowed since the end of robo-voting, and Crosby's been steadily gaining; and judging from the vote totals for Evgeni Malkin (182,823) and a player like Ryan Whitney (108,009), much of that support is coming from Penguins fans.
The Western Conference voters could be a difference-maker in this race; the question then becomes whether motivated fan bases in Chicago and San Jose potentially voting for Crosby can balance the assumed lack of support Crosby would receive from the Detroit ballot box-stuffers. (This may be unfairly judging Red Wings' fans opinions of Crosby. We're sure not all of them practice voodoo in his name.)
One other bit of all-star game news this morning, involving some fine print we just came across in the NHL's rules for the voting. For the Fox Mulders in the crowd, it seems that the NHL will be hiding totals for the last two days of voting:
All votes (via mobile and internet methods) will be combined and continually updated throughout the Promotion Period, so be sure to visit the website to see how your vote affected the results. There will be a voting results blackout during the final 48 hours of the voting period. The final results will be posted on January 6th, so be sure to check back for the big reveal and see if your favorites will be playing in the NHL All-Star Game.
Let's put aside, for a moment, how hypocritical it is for the NHL to crow about transparency while placing a "blackout" during the most critical time for results totals. Why on earth would you motivate your fans with "real time" voting and then not allow them a fun, chaotic mad rush to the finish in order to put their favorite players over the top? What a killjoy.
Back to the hypocrisy: We already had to suffer through the NHL's failure to prevent voter fraud when balloting started. Pulling the curtain back over the vote totals before the end of the balloting will just fuel speculation that the fix is in.