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  1. Sports
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Five players who could be NHL all-stars if it weren’t for their flashier teammates

The Lightning have too many stars for everyone to be an all-star and they aren’t the only team with that issue.
Tampa Bay center Anthony Cirelli doesn't necessarily have All-Star Game flair, but his importance to the Lightning is never in doubt. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

Every all-star roster brings with it a conversation of who got snubbed. Last year for the Lightning it was Brayden Point. This year, it was Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy (though Vasilevskiy eventually got in as a replacement).

And the Lightning didn’t even have it the worst.

Related: Were the Lightning snubbed by NHL All-Star selections? Not really

Bruins forwards Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are having incredible seasons, though no one outside of Boston wants to hear that about Marchand. Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar is the rookie of the year frontrunner but isn’t in the all-star game (the deck is stacked against defensemen to begin with). At the time rosters were announced Dallas’ Ben Bishop was one of the most efficient goalies in the league.

But the conversation goes deeper than just the snubs. There are some players who are good enough to be all-stars, but never get a chance because their superstar teammates get more attention.

Jake Guentzel was supposed to be the Penguins’ representative before he got hurt and goalie Tristan Jarry was named his replacement. Guentzel was having a great year, on pace for his second 40-goal season and maybe 90 points. But would he even have gotten a look if perennial stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin weren’t hurt?

Alex Ovechkin decided to skip the All-Star Game for the second year in a row, after eight all-star appearances in 14 seasons. That opened the door for T.J. Oshie’s first all-star game. It was an indirect path through the “last man in” vote, but he likely wouldn’t have been on that ballot if Ovechkin were going.

Here are five players who get buried behind flashy teammates:

Anthony Cirelli, Lightning

The Lightning's Anthony Cirelli (71) celebrates with Brayden Point (21) after Cirelli scores the winning overtime goal vs. the Senators on Dec. 17. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

Cirelli has two elements working against him: he doesn’t play an all-star style and he’s on a team with a whole lot of star power. Cirelli is not a flashy player; he has 12 goals and 33 points through 47 games. But he is one of the players who “drives the bus,” as the Lightning like to say. Cirelli is the team’s top defensive forward and often lines up against other team’s top lines. His style is not what all-star games are built around, but it is what teams are built around.

Torey Krug, Bruins

Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray looks to stop Boston's Torey Krug (47) during a Jan. 19 game. [KEITH SRAKOCIC | AP]

Again, with the style and superstars. Krug is a defenseman. (Defense is not a part of the all-star game. There were only a total of eight blue liners picked for the original rosters across four divisions.) Krug has 32 points this season, on pace for a career year. He’s on a team with three of the league’s best forwards in David Pastrnak (an all-star this year), Bergeron and Marchand. He also plays with Zdeno Chara, who is an unlikely all-star as a defensive defenseman but maintains his popularity at age 42.

Related: Round and round we go. The NHL is firing coaches like it pulls goalies and recycling them

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals

Washington's Evgeny Kuznetsov skates with the puck during a Jan. 16 game against New Jersey. [AL DRAGO | AP]

Kuznetsov was an all-star in 2016, but that was only as a replacement for Ovechkin, who was injured at the time. For years, Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom got all the attention. Defenseman John Carlson is having a historic season with 60 points through 49 games, so he was an obvious nod this year. Meanwhile, Kuznetsov and his 70 to 80-point seasons has been passed over.

William Nylander, Maple Leafs

Toronto's William Nylander (88) shoots past Calgary's Noah Hanifin (55) during a Jan. 16 game. [NATHAN DENETTE | AP]

Talk about star power; Toronto has Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Then there’s Morgan Reilly, a top defenseman, and goalie Fredrick Andersen led the league in wins when the all-star rosters were announced this year. Nylander is second on the team in goals and third in points, but that’s not enough in a scenario where Marner needs to be voted “last man in.”

Brayden Point, Lightning

Tampa Bay's Brayden Point (21) battles to make a play while between Vancouver's Bo Horvat (53) and Troy Stecher (51) during a Jan. 7 game. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

Like Kuznetsov, Point has made one all-star appearance but it came after Victor Hedman couldn’t play in 2018 due to a knee injury. Point is one of the league’s best centers, but he plays with Stamkos, Kucherov, Hedman and Vasilevskiy. Even Kevin Shattenkirk said Point didn’t always stand out playing against the Lightning because of his flashier teammates. Point has 30-plus goals in each of his full NHL seasons, but he’s more efficient than awe inspiring. It’d sure be fun to see him in the fastest skater, though.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampbay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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