Maybe they should have just left the little kids on the ice for the breakaway event at the Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition.
In such a remarkable series of fancy failures, the six all-stars chosen to do the “hot dog” shootouts against goaltenders Brian Elliott (St. Louis Blues and Team Alfredsson) and Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens and Team Chara) failed so miserably to stickhandle in, deke or score that at one point the crowd started booing.
One after another the players – Ryan Johansen (Columbus Blue Jackets), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks) and Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks) for Team Chara, Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers), John Tavares (New York Islanders) and Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks) for Team Alfredsson – dallied in from centre ice, cuffed pucks off their skate blades, lost pucks off their stick blades, dropped pucks they were trying to pluck off the ice surface and failed to score on two goaltenders who were doing everything in their power to let the pucks go into their nets.
At one point, Price even made a save off Couturier by kneeling backwards in his crease and kicking back blindly at the rookie’s failed shot.
Eventually, however, the slickest players on each side got some semblance of their acts together. Tavares scored twice on Price, once lifting a puck, tossing it and “bunting” it into the net behind Price. Patrick Kane, wearing Clark Kent horn-rimmed glasses and a Superman cape, came in. flopped to the ice, sent a hand pass back to himself and the young Chicago Blackhawks star cuffed the puck in behind Elliott. Perry scored by switching his regular stick for a child’s mini-stick.
Though Kane failed on his second attempt, he was declared overall winner by fan vote. Kane’s Team Chara, however, fell to Team Alfredsson 21-12 when all the scoring was tallied in the meaningless-but-fun spectacle.
In the first event of Sunday evening, to determine fastest skater, the overall winner was New York Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin, in a close contest with Ottawa Senators rookie Colin Greening. In an early heat, Greening’s long stick had triggered the finish line clock ahead of Hagelin, though Hagelin was clearly in front, lending some confusion to the opening event.
Hagelin’s best time was 12.963 seconds. While impressive, it was hardly as remarkable as Ottawa Senators’ young defenceman Erik Karlsson who completed the course in 13.021 – a good portion of it skating backwards, as the contest rules require of defencemen.
In the shooting accuracy event, Team Chara came back to even the scores at 6 points each when Cody Hodgson (Vancouver Canucks), Tyler Seguin (Boston Bruins), Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars) and Marian Hossa (Chicago Blackhawks) proved better at busting targets in the four corners of the net than Team Alfredsson’s Matt Read (Philadelphia Flyers), Jason Spezza (Ottawa Senators) and Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks). Stamkos, the league’s leading scorer with 32 goals, proved particularly inept when he has time to aim his impressive one-timers.
After three events, the two teams stood tied at 6 points apiece.
Team Alfredsson again leapt out in front in the skills challenge relay, with three players having to one-time shots into the net from different places in the opposition zone, one player demonstrating passing accuracy at centre ice, a player showing puck control around pylons, another stickhandling and a final player hitting four targets.
Particularly impressive in this event were Detroit Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk (puck control), the two Vancouver Sedins, Daniel and Henrik (passing accuracy) and, to a chorus of boos from the Ottawa crowd, Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel on the target shoot.
Kessel’s team, however, was no match for the players on Team Alfredsson in this event, with the hometown favourite team – featuring five Ottawa Senators in Daniel Alfredsson, Karlsson, Greening, Milan Michalek and Spezza – moving ahead by a score of 9-6.
In the most-popular event of the annual skills competition, hardest shot, it was a given that long-time record holder Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins) would hold his crown – but could he better his record-setting 105.9-mph shot of a year ago. He did, breaking the record on all four of his shots and setting a new standard of 108.8 mph. The Nashville Predators’ Shea Weber, shooting last for Team Alfredsson, also beat the old record, firing his last blast at 106 mph. Alfredsson, also shooting at the advanced age of 39, managed an impressive 101.3 mph as he won his own heat.
At the end of the hardest-shot competition, the score had tightened again to 11-9 in favour of Team Alfredsson.
But that was as close as it would get.
The competition closed out as so many regular NHL teams seem to lately, with a shootout – only in this case involving a dozen players from each team. As each player failed to score, he was eliminated from the shootout. The six goaltenders – Price, Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins), Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings) for Team Chara, Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers, Elliott and Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) for Team Alfredsson – took turns facing the selected shooters.
The star for Team Alfredsson was Stamkos, who scored three straight times and was the last player still not eliminated. Stamkos’s second goal, on a spinerama move on Price, was simply spectacular. John Tavares and Jason Pominville each scored twice as Alfredsson’s team went on to win the skills event by a lopsided score of 21-12.
It was a result that may have meant nothing in the overall standings and did not even resemble a true hockey game, yet the sellout crowd loved every moment of it – particularly whenever longtime Senators captain Alfredsson had a puck anywhere near his stick.