If you watched the skills competition and thought “I could do that,” prepare to have your bubble burst. Some of the trickiest moves to master are also the most under-appreciated.
COLUMBUS – The moves that NHLers can pull off are incredibly impressive, especially since they perform them in front of thousands of people live and many more on TV. The All-Star Game’s skills competition puts many of those tricks on display, but which are actually the hardest? The players themselves have weighed in.
As it turns out, one of the least flashy was one of the most awe-inspiring.
“The hardest one that people would not have any idea about is the saucer pass into that little net,” said Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan. “Getting it into that little frame? That’s precision passing. Ryan Getzlaf was, what, 4-for-6? It’s impressive.”
Tampa Bay rookie Jonathan Drouin echoed that sentiment, pointing out just how slim the margin of error is for that finesse play, while his fellow freshman Aaron Ekblad was equally impressed.
“Saucing it over to the far nets is the most difficult,” Ekblad said. “And then it’s the goal-line one-timer. That is not an easy shot, whatsoever.”
The shootout competition, where players are tasked with coming up with the most creative moves possible, also got votes, since the guys are really putting themselves out there to be crowd-pleasers. This year was better for humor than for actual highlight-reel moves, though we’re all wondering what could have been in Calgary rookie Johnny Gaudreau had been allowed to light his stick on fire, as was reported earlier in the day.
According to Ryan, after practice is when a lot of those moves are born and nurtured and Drouin noted that all sorts of skills can be honed once the coach’s final whistle sounds.
“Let’s be honest, you’re not going to do them in the game,” Drouin said. “But me and Nikita Kucherov, we’ll stay a half-hour after practice a lot, just passing and fooling around. That’s where you pick up stuff like that and think ‘maybe that could work.’ “
Of course, lost in all of this stickwork and fancy accuracy is perhaps the most overlooked and under-appreciated role during All-Star weekend, but Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien didn’t forget:
“Being a goalie,” he said. “Not having any shots, coming in and getting pushed side-to-side…wouldn’t be my goal.”