Girgensons Makes Buffalo and Latvia Proud at All-Star Game
Zemgus Girgensons went to the All-star game largely thanks to his home country fans. Many seemed to think this was a joke, while it was exactly the opposite.
Lest we forget, the All-Star game is a good old-fashioned popularity contest, and Girgensons is a VERY
popular player. The fans in Buffalo love him. His Latvian fans love him all the more. They made it their mission to see Girgensons wear an All-Star sweater because they believe in him.
The fact that Girgensons’ biggest support came from outside North America doesn’t make him any less deserving of a trip to Columbus. These are fans, too. They watch games, they buy gear, they love hockey. All the ridicule and condescension over his trouncing of the fan vote competition sounds a lot like sour grapes from those who don’t believe a young kid from a, currently abysmal, small market team can be an All-Star.
The five other top 6 fan vote picks were all from the Chicago Blackhawks, who have a Facebook following of 2.5 million. That’s more than the entire population of Latvia. Does being one of the largest franchises in the NHL with the largest fan base make their fans’ votes somehow better?
All the drama aside, Buffalo’s #28 did his fans proud this weekend. While he looked nervous during the draft, (Who wants to be picked last?), he came out to the skills challenge and performed well.
Challenging Vladimir Tarasenko in the speed skate event, The Latvian Locomotive as he’s been so dubbed by fans brought Team Foligno a point for the event. Though, they really should have considered giving him an extra point for having to have the GoPro camera strapped to his head. Note to the league: Yeah, the cameras, not so much. Not on the players, not on the officials.
While Girgensons may not have scored in the Relay Challenge or Shootout, he seemed to be having a good time. Many of the players are also fans, so having front row seats to the action makes missing shots easier to handle. As he told Chris Ryndak, he was really just there to have fun.
The skill competition ended with Team Foligno burying Team Toews 25-19.
The All-Star Game
Sunday’s game was everything you’d expect from an All-Star game; lots of goals, lots of showboating, and lots of guys doing a lot of nothing in front of the net. There was one fight that looked more like a bizarre game of Ring-Around-the-Rosie, but what’s a game without at least one ‘fight’.
Skating as left wing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from the Oilers at center and the Canuck’s Radim Vrbata on the right, Girgensons managed three shots on goal during his 13.09 minutes of ice time. He finished the game on par with Anze Kopitar of the Kings with no points. Not the greatest stat, but not bad company.
Team Toews exacted revenge for their loss during the skills competition with a final score of 17-12 over Team Foligno. The combined total of 29 goals set a record for the most goals ever in an NHL All-Star game.
Expect to see this young star back for future All-Star games. Girgensons talent may not be appreciated yet by the masses, but fans see his talent on the ice game after game. He’s quickly becoming a leader on the ice and will be key in the Sabres climb back to being a strong competitor in the league.