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Stronger, Faster and more accurate

Posted By Mika Oehling On Jan 30 2011 @ 11:58 am In Around The Rinks | No Comments

The NHL Super Skills competition this year revealed what most of us already knew; the NHL is superskilled. It’s interesting to hear what’s changed in the game according to the sportscasters, how back in the day, a 100 mph shot would have been unheard of, and how the fastest skater would never have been able to race around at that speed- and especially not backwards.

There were some fun highlights of the night, although the competition itself had such a strange tallying system that the scores meant nothing. The fastest skater segment was changed to a head to head round and was expanded to include backwards skating, rookies and goalies. Although Cam Ward beat Tim Thomas, it was fun to watch him stumble and then get back up, a fierce competitor even when the competition is a little silly. This is obviously the kind of guy who would challenge you to rematch if he lost at anything, even if it was sewing. He’s a real competitor.

Speaking of real competitors, Johnathon Toews was clearly not impressed by the quick fire accuracy round that he lost initially to Chicago Blackhawks teammate Patrick Sharp, when he failed to hear the start whistle. He took Sharp to town on the rematch, and while he tried to make light of it, it was clear that Captain Serious doesn’t take much lightly.

In general, the spirit was lighthearted, but that doesn’t mean that anyone was going to lay down for anyone else. The final breakaway challenge pitted top goaltenders against the NHL’s top shooters, and Marc-Andre Fleury made some spectacular saves. Tim Thomas didn’t give shooters many options on him either and Carey Price also stood tall in the net. The proof was in the numbers, as very few players survived for a second round, with Corey Perry and Martin St. Louis showing the best moves on the night.

Speaking of Corey Perry, he was without a doubt the best on the creative breakaway challenge. It was a shame that this competition was won based on fan voting, because the winner would clearly have been Perry, swinging the puck around on the tip of his stick and taking the pool cue shot. Ovechkin, the eventual winner, did have a few cute moves, although he decided against wardrobe and prop support, much to my disappointment. Loui Eriksson also gets an honorary mention for his double spinorama around the back of the net. It doesn’t matter that the goals didn’t go in; the creative aspect was fun to watch.

Marc-Andre Fleury knew to sit back in this one and he felt free to have a little fun, doing push-ups and jumping jacks in net while the players advanced on goal. And this strategy was a lot better than the last one where they put in a hapless reliever goalie who actually tried to make stops. That one was ill-conceived and this new format was way more successful.

One of the highlights of the night was Zdeno Chara’s hardest shot. He broke his own record this year with a 105.9 mph shot- wow. This man’s shot is as fast as a five star vehicle. That makes him the Mercedes of the league. Shea Weber put up a good fight with 104.8 as his hardest shot, which definitely makes him a credible challenger.

The things that do work for this event: the head-to-head challenges are great, getting the goaltenders more involved is a good idea, stacking up the challenges with new quirks like backwards skating is innovative, and having the Captains choose the players is fun.

The things that don’t work for this event: the scoring makes no sense, the fans shouldn’t have the final vote on the creative breakaway, and the relay event should be limited to one round instead of three. This event loses momentum by the last round and one should largely suffice.

The one item still up for debate in my mind is the involvement of the rookies. While it’s nice to see them included, they are not really All-stars yet; this is a title that needs to be earned. Ideally, a nice solution would be to have the rookies have their own event on the same weekend without having them directly involved with the actual NHL All-stars. Of course, the problem with this is the fact that nobody will watch it then. But the all star game should be about stars of the moment. An interesting debate.

The All-Star Skills competition is fun to watch, but a little too long and the fan-voting creative breakaway challenge is gimmicky. Hopefully, the game today will be a little less so.

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