- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 31, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Devan Dubnyk was heartbroken while watching the second period of the All-Star Game last year.

He saw Marc-Andre Fleury allowed seven goals on 16 shots, six of them in the first 10 minutes. The Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender was heckled from the start of the game by the crowd in Columbus, which then began chanting his name and sarcastically cheering any time he successfully handled the puck.

“It wasn’t like it was him,” said Dubnyk, the Minnesota Wild goaltender. “It wasn’t his fault. It’s the All-Star Game. You watch the goals and you were like, ‘Jeez, any one of us could have had that happen.’”

With the league scrapping the event’s traditional format in favor of a three-on-three tournament, goaltenders will likely be in for a more difficult time during the All-Star Game on Sunday evening. Scoring is expected to be sky-high, with the loss of a skater leading to open ice and additional breakaway and scoring chances.

The bigger concern, though, should be about the days afterward. In the last 10 All-Star Games, dating to 2001, 10 players have allowed five or more goals during their appearance, with all of them playing only one period. Five of them allowed four or more goals in their next game, and five did not win their next game.

That includes Fleury, who allowed four goals in two of his next three games, losing both. Henrik Lundqvist, who allowed six goals in 2009, and Roman Cechmanek, who surrendered six goals in 2001, each gave up six goals in their next game; Sean Burke allowed five goals in 2002, then lost three of his next four appearances, allowing four goals in two of them.

Fleury hoped to move on from his troubles immediately after last year’s All-Star Game, noting that he knew that his teammates were “not going to play defense anyways.” Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, who was selected to play a year ago but was injured, figures that understanding the format and the talent of his opponents will help him put however he performs into proper context.

“Obviously, you want to showcase yourself and you want to play well, but at the same time, you have to have the right mindset and try to enjoy it and not let that affect the player that you are,” Rinne said.

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, selected to play in his first All-Star Game, said the level of competition will also play a factor. Plus, with a $1 million bonus available to the winning team, there won’t be any lack of trying.

“I think almost everybody here kind of knows how to flip the switch and they know when to have some fun,” Bishop said. “Even when the game goes on, I think people will be going pretty hard. I don’t think it’s going to be nonchalant.”

The NHL has changed the format of the All-Star Game on several occasions. From 1998 through 2002, players represented either North America or the rest of the world, and in the last three years, two captains were asked to choose their teams in a schoolyard pick.

This year, the league turned to the three-on-three tournament format to emphasize the new overtime rules, which were instituted to cut down on the number of games ending in a shootout. Just past the halfway mark of the season, 63.7 percent of games have ended in overtime, whereas only 44.4 percent of games did so in 2014-15.

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who believes his routine and mental approach are a large part of having success, doesn’t think a three-on-three tournament could have any kind of lasting impact on one’s play. He even shrugged off the idea that stopping eight of the nine shots he faced during the rapid-fire shootout round in the skills competition on Saturday could put him in the right mindset for what he will face on Sunday.

“You still have to have a pretty loose, a pretty light-hearted attitude,” Holtby said. “It’s a three-on-three tournament. Guys aren’t trying to overstrain themselves too much because there’s too much on the line physically, but you still want to put on a good show, so you just let the talent in the room take over and see what happens.”

Dubnyk, meanwhile, equated the three-on-three format to practice. Because the style of play is so different from the rest of the game, he has had no problem moving on from the four overtime goals he has surrendered this season, including on Jan. 25 in a loss to the Arizona Coyotes.

That said, Dubnyk doesn’t particularly want to find out what would happen if he struggles on Sunday.

“This is my first experience, so maybe come ask me afterwards,” he said. “Hopefully, we can talk about something positive and I don’t have to tell you about how I’ll recover from the beating I took on the ice.”

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