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As you know, the NHL instituted a fraud-prevention measure in its online All-Star Game voting that requires fans to type in randomly generated code words in order to validate that they're not an auto-voting robot. Puck Daddy reader Timothy sent us this screenshot yesterday, and wonders exactly how random these words are. Sidney Crosby conspiracy theorists: Merry Christmas.

"No joke, that's what it said," wrote Tim in an e-mail. "I'm a Pittsburgh fan and I even think that's crazy. This is why people hate my favorite team. It's stupid things like this that piss people off and make them think Crosby is a tool. The poor kid doesn't want 'emperor' to be written beside his name."

Is the NHL attempting some sort of subtle mind control here? Have any voters gotten code words like "Malkin" and "Czar?" Or "Avery" and "Ignore?" Or "Thrashers" and "Vegas?"

Jokes aside, back to Sidney. As you may know, he was stoned by Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom on a pedestrian shootout attempt last night to end the Penguins' game. Taking Crosby's shootout history and current struggles into account, Tony from The Confluence wonders if it's time for Crosby to be dropped from the skills competition top three.

From The Confluence on the Kukla network:

It's also not easy considering that Crosby has scored a couple of the most notable shootout goals in the short shootout history of the NHL.  The first was the great "water bottle" backhanded goal to the top shelf to beat Jose Theodore and the Canadiens in November 2005.  And then there was this past New Years Day, when his shootout goal against Ryan Miller and the Sabres won the Winter Classic for the Penguins.

In addition, Crosby has had seven game deciding shootout goals in his short career, which is tied for third most all-time.

However, to be fair, it must also be noted that Crosby overall is now 9 for 32 for 28% after his futile attempt last night against the Wild's Niklas Backstrom.  It must be taken into account that Crosby's 32 attempts are tied for fourth all-time as well, so that could be a justification for a smaller shootout goal percentage.  He's 0 for 4 this season, while he was 2 for 7 in '07/'08, 5 for 15 in '06/'07 and 2 for 6 in '05/'06.  Over his career, he's also had a span in which he missed in 10 straight shootout attempts (Evgeni Malkin had a streak of 9 himself, FYI).

Considering the reason the shootout exists in the first place is for artificially created television highlights, the notion of taking the biggest star in the game out of that skills competition seems both ironic and counterproductive.

But it's not a format that automatically lends itself to every star. what we've seen in the NHL since the shootout was added is a mix of participants -- stars and specialists. For every Vincent Lecavalier, there's a Jussi Jokinen. Look at the New York Rangers: Fredrik Sjostrom has five attempts, Nigel Dawes has three and Scott Gomez has zero. No bruised egos, we're sure; just an acknowledgement that as dynamic a player is in an actual hockey game, the conditions change in the shootout.

For example, Alexander Ovechkin has no business being in a shootout, based on his historic lack of success (1 for 8 over the last two years) and the fact that the Washington Capitals have shootout aces Viktor Kozlov and Alexander Semin on the roster. If he takes it personally -- hey, the stats don't lie.

It shouldn't be an insult to Crosby, either, if he's not center stage in the skills competition; nor should it be a second-thought for Pittsburgh Penguins Coach Michel Therrien. Unless, of course, 28 percent is still better than what's riding the pine for the Penguins.

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