Image In honor of the All-Star Game, it is time to devote this week’s column to the first half first team all-stars of the Western Conference, as well as the "all-underrated" team.

First Team All-Stars: 

G Roberto Luongo – Vancouver.  If it weren’t for an average month of November, Luongo would be right up with Crosby and Brodeur in Hart contention.  He has been absolutely fantastic since then, and his play is the main reason why the Canucks are going into the break as the hottest team in the entire league. 

D Scott Niedermayer – Anaheim.  The best defenseman in the league right now has been all that and more for the Ducks.  With Pronger out, Niedermayer has stepped up his game even more.  Has zero faults and can log an unimaginable amount of ice time without sign of fatigue. 

Pronger D Chris Pronger – Anaheim.  Before his injury he was leading defensemen in scoring league-wide, and was (along with Niedermayer) the key cog on one of the best teams in the league.  Pronger and Niedermayer are going to create huge match-up problems for Anaheim’s opponents in the post-season. 

F Jarome Iginla – Calgary. Playing like the Iginla of old this season, he was on a fantastic scoring pace before going down with a sprained knee ligament.  The Flames are still winning without him, thanks to the great play of Langkow, Lombardi, and others.  Iginla is as deadly a scoring winger as they come. 

F Teemu Selanne – Anaheim. Many thought Selanne wouldn’t come close to his brilliant 2005-2006 season, but he is proving all the doubters wrong.  His skating and scoring has been top notch and he looks to continue that deep into the post-season. 

F Paul Kariya – Nashville.  If the Predators don’t lock him up, Kariya will easily be one of the most sought after UFA’s on the market.  The Preds are now in first place in the NHL, thanks in part to Kariya’s consistent play, even as other Nashville forwards like Sullivan and Arnott have been in and out of the line-up with injuries. 

The All-Underrated Western Conference Team 

G Chris Mason – Nashville. Mason is a UFA after this season and will garner a lot of attention as a starter league wide.  He has lead the Preds in the absence of Tomas Vokoun, and posted sparkling numbers along the way.  

D Kevin Bieksa – Vancouver.  Bieksa has been an absolute diamond in the rough for the Canucks.  He is on pace for over 50 points in his first full NHL season, and plays a feisty, consistent game that has endeared him to Canuck fans.  Bieksa is playing like a top-pairing defenseman and his offensive flair combined with his Chris Chelios swagger earns him a spot on this team. 

D Philippe Boucher – Dallas. Boucher’s injury was the only thing holding him back from being an All-Star, but he still flies under the radar quite often.  He is one of the better scoring defensemen in the league and will crack the 20-goal plateau this season. 

Lombardi F Sami Pahlsson – Anaheim.  Pahlsson is the best defensive forward in the game right now, but gets little recognition for it.  He will never be a big offensive producer but has quietly developed into a dominant defensive forward. 

F Matthew Lombardi – Calgary.  Lombardi is the fastest forward in the West, and his hands are starting to catch up.  He has game-breaking acceleration and speed and is a nightmare to defend against on the rush. 

F Yanic Perreault – Phoenix. The guy has made a career out of being underrated, and with his first (although undeserving) All-Star nomination, he will get some recognition.  All he does is score goals and win faceoffs, apparently 29 other teams besides Phoenix didn’t need him to do that for them.


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