If there's one thing we know for sure regarding Mat Barzal at NHL All-Star Weekend, it's that he won't be received with a smattering of boos as retaliation for the way John Tavares was treated on Long Island. Barzal will play with the fan favorites alongside four Toronto Maple Leafs on Team Auston Matthews.
Barzal was selected by Justin Beiber and company last night, as he'll join his new teammates for the day on Sunday. Teamed up with and competing against the top players in the world, Barzal found time to appreciate two of the league's top players.
The seemingly ageless Sidney Crosby has been a divisional adversary of Barzal since he entered the league in 2016. With countless matchups in the regular and postseason, Barzal has seen the best of Crosby, as he seems to show no sign of slowing down at 36 years old.
"He's the crispiest hockey player of all time," said Barzal last night in Toronto. "His passing, skating, vision, puck-protection, everything... He could probably be this way five years from now. He's got the LeBron effect, where age doesn't really matter. He's always going to be one of the best players in the league."
While the ageless Crosby is having another sensational year, Nikita Kucherov is leading the league in points with 85 and will be in contention for another Hart Trophy. Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated Barzal and the Islanders in back-to-back semi-final/conference finals, with Kucherov being one of the principal reasons.
"I think he's been on another level for a while," Barzal said. "Played him in the playoffs a few times - I know his game really well. You say you know his game really well but you don't know his game really well because he's so deceptive. Just so tricky out there. His vision and his pace of play, he plays the game at the perfect speed. Combine that with his shot and his hockey sense, there's a reason he's one of the top scorers in the league... His game is exceptional."
The NHL All-Star Game is scheduled for 3:00 on Saturday on ABC in the US and Sportsnet in Canada.